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In his 30 years of retailing Ajay Odedra has always wanted a “perfect store”.
The perfect size shop, in a perfect location with the right customer base that can see all his ideas come to life – and he believes his most recent convenience store is it.
Boreham Village Store (Nisa), Essex
Hours: 7am-10pm Monday-Sunday
Trading since: September 2014
Size: 3,000sq ft
Staff: 16 full- and part-time
Style: A convenience store and kitchen in an upmarket village. The shop is situated on a main road with ample parking. A Co-op and Sainsbury’s are its nearest competition.
He opened Boreham Village Store just over a year ago on the site of a former lawnmower service centre and it’s already taking £35,000 a week.
“The idea is to add more services and food and we think we can get the store up to £70,000 a week within three years,” Ajay says.
It’s an ambitious target, but Ajay is confident. “When I took over Castle Stores in Chelmsford from my parents it was doing £7,000 a week. I renovated it and brought in new ideas,” he explains. “When I leased it off last year it was doing up to £60,000 a week.”
Food to go is integral to the new store’s success. The most profitable area is a kitchen at the back of the shop, where customers can pick up coffee, and bacon and sausage rolls in the morning, sandwiches and jacket potatoes for lunch and a freshly-prepared Thai or Indian takeaway meal for dinner.
“You can’t get a decent takeaway. Then you have to go to a shop to buy wine, beer or Coke,” he says. “Here, you get the whole package in one store. Fresh and hot food is the way to go for convenience.”
In January, he’ll move the kitchen into the centre of the shop, along with his butchers, and introduce an in-store florist to create theatre as soon as people walk in.
He’ll expand hot food with a pizza oven and bring in an Italian chef. Rotisserie chicken will also cater for shopper demand. Ajay says: “On Sundays, Sainsbury’s sell out by 1pm and a lot of customers ask why we don’t do chickens.”
Away from hot food, Ajay is looking to bring in a post office, which he estimates will add another £1,000 a week, as well as a frozen section filled with the entire range of high-quality products from the Cook brand.
The whole refit is scheduled to take place in 10 days while the shop remains open. “I think it will make the store perfect,” says Ajay.
The area is benefitting from huge regeneration, with the village getting its own train station in 2019 and thousands of new homes being built near the store. “It’s a really good site with a lot of parking,” Ajay says. “The whole area is getting busier and busier, which is why I bought it. I could see the potential.”
Ajay prides himself on standing out from the average convenience store, but he still has traditional values when it comes to the community. They run raffles through their Facebook page, sponsor the local football team and regularly donate to charities through Nisa’s Making a Difference Locally scheme.
Most of the staff are from the local village. “The way we run the staff is as if they’re self-employed, so it’s their job and their business – they have a lot of freedom and trust,” Ajay says.
Although Ajay expects his refit next month to make the store perfect, he knows he can’t rest on his laurels. “Every six months to a year, things have to change. It’s a constant process. You can’t sit still,” says Ajay. “There are some stores I know that will have the same fittings for the next 10 years. You have to keep on changing and evolving to keep interest.”
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