Thanks to tireless community work, Molly’s Nisa in Luton comes alive in the run up to 25 December. As the team behind the store tell Jennifer Hardwick, their focus now is to maintain this level of excitement year round.  

We’ve always made sure Santa Claus comes to the store every year,” says Holly Patel, owner of Molly’s Nisa in Lewsey Farm in Luton. “We used to organise it outside the shop but this time we made it even bigger and did it in the local community centre.” 

Even in the bleak mid-winter of late January, with Christmas seeming months ago already, the store’s approach to seasonal cheer bears repeating.  

In addition to putting on a Christmas lunch for the 46 elderly residents of the assisted living flats across the road from the stores, Holly and her store manager Scott Jell this year decided to organise a disco for local children. In what they now plan to be an annual event, each child received their own Christmas gift while a free buffet was put on for kids and parents. 

“We took toys and tubes of chocolate given to us by Mondelez, and Country Toys also gave us gingerbread men and mince pies,” Holly explains. “We brought along drinks and crisps and played Christmas music – it was great fun.” 

For Holly and Scott, being a part of their community is more than just important – it is their number one priority. And with a Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl all within a mile and a half of Molly’s, making a connection with customers is also a crucial part of the store’s competitive strategy.

With wines and spirits sales up 15% each this Christmas and the store reporting its best December sales for five years, the strategy looks like it succeeded.

Yet Holly and Scott make sure their team – who almost entirely live on the Lewsey Farm estate – know this work must continue after the tinsel comes down. “We have always prided ourselves on good customer service. We also always make sure no-one is waiting too long to be served so people can get in and out quickly, which they appreciate,” says Scott.

To improve this service, the store now features a bakery, Costa machine and in-store Subway, making food to go a key category throughout the day – perfect for the many builders, busy parents, school children and teachers who rush past the store each day.  

“We bake baguettes and French sticks all day and also sell steak bakes, sausage rolls and turnovers. It all sells really well at lunchtime and first thing in the morning, particularly with builders on their way to work. We’ve just extended Sunday hours to 8am until 9pm to make the most of Subway,” says Holly.  

While tobacco and alcohol remain bestsellers, focusing on food to go, chilled and community work is a mix that has proved key to keeping the store successful. 

So it makes sense that the team is now on the search for any other opportunities to put itself at the heart of the community it serves. 

“We like to host little parties outside the store and we never charge for any of them, getting support instead from suppliers,” says Holly. 

Meanwhile, the team runs colouring competitions, with entries uploaded to the store’s Facebook page for customers to vote on, with chocolate and sweets awarded to winners. 

And utilising Nisa’s own charity fund, Making a Difference Locally, the store also makes frequent donations to good causes in the area, via collections and the carrier bag charge. Customers regularly vote for the cause they would like to support.  

But having seen so much festive success in 2017, Holly, Scott and the team are now planning to make an Easter to match it. 

“To compete against the big supermarkets now you have to offer something different and that’s what we’ll continue to do,” says Holly.

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