In August 2018, Ferhan Ashiq decided it was time to refit his Prestonpans Village Store, to match modern consumer trends, in a move that saw him halve the number of aisles, but double his profits. 

The refit was crucial, as from 2014, Lidl became more notorious in the area and sales started to decline. 

Ferhan says despite the chain having been there for six years prior, as it gained national press, more shoppers turned their eye to the discounter in favour of his store. 

“We made a decision to either refit or sell up – at some point you have to do something. One of the major things I wanted from the refit was for the shop to look brighter and more spacious,” he explains.

With some rearranging of categories and knocking down of walls, the store upgraded from a 1,500sq ft convenience store to a 1,800sq ft one-stop shop gleaming with an expansive food-to-go area, comprising a deli, dessert bar and an ice blast machine. 

“I tried to emulate Subway when it came to the deli. We sell eight-inch sandwiches for £3 with a variety of fillings sourced from Fife Creamery,”  he says.

Top tips

Invest in an ice blast machine

“Invest in a slush or ice blast machine, especially in the run-up to summer, and make sure you place it right at the front of the store to drive impulse purchases,” Ferhan says.

Concentrate on food to go

“Grocery is dying,” he says. “The way forward is food to go, which is a category that every retailer, no matter what size, should have a go at in a way that is relevant to their customers.” 

Lighting and space are key

“Don’t be afraid of cutting down your range and giving more space to the floor. This way, your shop looks bigger and brighter. It also helps to make your fixtures easier to shop,” he explains.

“We also serve hot crepes and waffles, but the most popular food-to-go item has been the milkshakes and hot cookies. 

“The dessert bar has done extremely well overall – there is very little wastage and it’s paying for the rest of the deli counter.”

But the most successful addition, says Ferhan, has been Skwishee – a giant blue ice blast machine serving three flavours with edible straws and frozen raspberries. 

In the first week, Ferhan says it made a profit of £890; the second week it made
£620; and by the third, it plateaued at £550.

“We really pushed the Skwishee machine on Facebook and, in my soft drinks category, it is now
my number-one and number-two bestseller.

“Although it had a negative effect on the rest of the soft drinks – for example, I was initially doing around £1,500 on soft drinks and now I’m doing £1,200 – overall profits have gone up,” he adds. 

The refit also attracted new customers to the store, with existing shoppers who used to come in for one or two items now filling their baskets up. 

“We were ruthless in terms of range – initially, what suffered was the categories that weren’t really supplied by wholesalers, such as hardware,” he explains.

“Despite having a reduced number of lines, the categories are pretty much the same, but instead of having one-metre  shelves, we now have more compact shelving and only two aisles.” 

In February 2018, the average basket spend was £4.88, with margins of 20%. A year on, average basket spend has shot up to £5.15, with margins now at 23.38%. 

“If I had the space, I would have a bar area with seating, but this will require me to again go through my store to see which category is dead to then replace it,” he adds.

But for now, after such a big refit, Ferhan’s main goal is to keep things afloat and make sure everything is in working order.

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