The personal touch sets Rajwinder and Bhupinder Kaur’s store apart from their ‘big name’ neighbours. Steven Lambert finds out how being at the heart of the local community has helped the couple to build a
loyal customer base

Community has been at the heart of Rajwinder Kaur’s retailing philosophy ever since she and her husband Bhupinder took over a run-down off-licence and convenience store in Kilbirnie 15 years ago.

Everything about their Lifestyle Express Newhouse Mini Market business has been geared towards providing the best shopping experience for local customers, whether it’s offering wholesome homemade meals for workers or introducing items specially requested by shoppers on the store’s Facebook page.

_-HEMEDIA_NEWHOUSE_MINI_MARKET_23“We’re on first name terms with all of our customers,” says Rajwinder. “They’re the most important part of retailing and we do our best to give them what they want.”

The couple have made gradual but significant improvements to their business over the years, starting with the acquisition of the post office business that used to trade next door to them. Knocking through the wall into the adjacent building allowed them to grow floor space from 1,000sq ft to 1,500sq ft, and formed part of a refit that transformed the business in 2012.

“We went really big when we reopened,” says Rajwinder. “We had fun days, raffles and even had the Scottish Cup displayed in the shop. It helped get our name out there.”

The Post Office remains a large draw for residents, and moving the fortress to the back of the business means people are more likely to pick up a basket and add a few impulse purchases, says Rajwinder.

She adds that social media has also become an increasingly important tool for the business, allowing them to build better relationships with their customers.

“We have a Facebook account where we put up the latest deals and pick up suggestions from shoppers. We had one person who asked whether we could get gloves and scarfs in over winter, which we did, and they were really popular.”

This dedication to go the extra mile for shoppers is evident around the shop, especially in the excellent customer service provided by the couple’s seven members of staff, who offer to accompany elderly shoppers and find products for them.

_-HEMEDIA_NEWHOUSE_MINI_MARKET_29With competition from a Tesco and a Co-op, adding a personal touch has also endeared Rajwinder and Bhupinder to the local populace.

Rajwinder says: “We do our own homemade soups, which are really popular because we have a lot of factory workers in the area. We charge £1.40 for soup and a roll and we must go through about 30 a day. And we have homemade curries, which are popular with people picking up something for dinner.

“We also have lots of requests to make up hampers for shoppers, whether it’s for Valentine’s, Easter or other occasions, and we’re more than happy to do this.”

We had fun days, raffles and even had the Scottish Cup displayed in the shop. It helped get our name out there

Add-on services have also been good footfall drivers for the store, including PayPoint, the Lottery and dry-cleaning, while a Rollover hot dog machine has proven to be a big draw with the lunchtime crowd.

And with multiples on their doorstep, Rajwinder and Bhupinder also take full advantage of the range of value-for-money offers coming from their wholesaler, Landmark.

“We have our own £1 value zone in the shop, which is filled with good quality, affordable products,” says Rajwinder. “We used to have it in one part of the store but, when we realised our chilled sales weren’t so great, we moved the value lines next to it. Now we’ve got shoppers going to the section to pick up low price confectionery and snacks, and they are also picking up a sandwich and a drink while they’re there.”

By placing their customers at the centre of every business decision, Rajwinder and Bhupinder have ensured that, 15 years after they first opened their doors, they are the ones who are now the heart of their community.

Rajwinder says: “It’s the customers that make us hungry to do more with the shop, and it makes us value the work we do. But you’ve got to keep on top of your game, otherwise you won’t get the results you’re looking for.”

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