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In the latest IAA Academy in Action visit, Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski joined Retail Data Partnership’s Stephen Burnett on a visit to Suresh Patel’s store in Lancashire on the hunt for innovative ideas.

“We rearranged the whole shop earlier in the year, mainly to bring our bread to the front,” explains Suresh. Since making the change, Suresh’s custom has shot up and he now often sells out of lines. “Sometimes customers need pointers to direct them to where they want to go,” says Stephen. He suggests that Suresh should go even further by using signs to highlight key categories.

Suresh’s store is in a semi-rural area and he stocks milk and eggs supplied by a local farmer. “The products are slightly more expensive, but sales are good because it’s local produce. Stephen congratulates Suresh on taking advantage of what’s available, but tells him the next challenge is to make sure customers are aware of his range. “Draw people’s attention to it, perhaps with a mail shot or in a local newsletter.”

Stephen suggests that Suresh thinks about working with the vibrant local business economy too. This interests Suresh, who already has links with a nearby restaurant. “We work with the Chinese restaurant next door, which doesn’t take credit cards,” he explains. “Customers will come to us, do a little shop, and get £10 cash back for their takeaway.”

As customers arrive in Suresh’s shop on their way to the takeaway, one of the common items they look for is a bottle of wine to enjoy with their meal. As greater numbers of local residents have come to see his store as a wine destination, Suresh has grown this category, adding wine of most types and price points. Stephen is suitably impressed at how Suresh has taken advantage of his locale and underlines the opportunity that marketing and promotions with local businesses could offer.

Key tips

Building links with other local businesses is a great way of creating innovative promotions and activities

  • When you’ve developed a flourishing category, use customer input to grow the range
  • Innovating is only part of the story; communicating what’s new in store can be just as vital

If you think you’re a great retail innovator, let us know here.