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Baz Jethwa’s new suburban store offers more opportunities for innovation than he first expected. He tells Alex Yau how learning about his customer base has helped him adapt his offer
On paper, Baz Jethwa’s new store is a safe bet. Located – like his others – in a suburban area away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, Spar Crumpsall resembles the three location areas where he has previously found success offering a classic convenience offer to what appears to be a classic convenience demographic.
Yet, before taking on this new site, Baz did his research and discovered that the area was home to a thriving Jewish and Eastern European community. Alongside this, data from the last census shows 26% of Crumpsall’s population is of Asian descent.
It is a customer base different to the indigenous working-class English customers Baz has become accustomed to serving at his other stores since he made the switch from financial advisor to convenience store owner more than 12 years ago.
The new 3,000sq ft shop, which was previously a Morrisons Local, opened on 22 March at a cost of more than £100,000 to refit over a six-week period. Like his other three stores, Baz has a range of household goods, snacks, toiletries and magazines to help encourage the average basket spend of £6.55, while food to go is at the centre of Baz’s product range.
“There’s a tram stop across the road which many of my customers use for a 20-minute commute into Manchester city centre,” says Baz. “My other three stores take in £5,000 a week on average in food to go sales and I expect this store to perform similarly.”
With a Tesco and fellow independent retailers nearby, however, Baz knew his business would need to offer something different on top if it was to outperform the previous Morrisons operation. This strategy became particularly important, because his research showed the multiple had offered no major point of difference to encourage residents to shop on a regular basis.
And this is where his research came in: for the first time, Baz has taken a risk and added an international food section to his range. At the centre of this is a 12-metre bay consisting of products such as kosher eggs, 1kg bags of jasmine and basmati rice, a range of Asian spices and incense sticks.
“Sales of international products have been performing much better than I initially expected. They make up 4% of overall sales. The kosher eggs have been one of the most popular products. They must have no visible blood spots in order to be suitable for the Jewish community, and I’ve sold more than 150 boxes of 15 in the last month.”
The range was developed with a mixture of customer research and looking at the product mix offered in the nearby Tesco store. It has also helped him chart the path for his next big development: international food to go.
“The Tesco already has an ambient section for international products, but I discovered what’s really lacking in the area is international food to go,” Baz says. He is now planning an offer that includes freshly-prepared international food such as samosas, curries and Jewish pastries in his food to go range.
“The store already gets high commuter footfall every day, and food to go contributes to a fifth of daily sales.
“Customers say they’d buy more food to go if there was a more diverse range available. I’m confident sales of my international products can match my food to go sales if I bring them together like this.”
Baz has clearly set some big targets for his new store, but it so far looks as though moving away from his standard store format is paying off. So, is this international foods-led convenience model one he would like to roll out further?
“We’ll see how this store does first before I consider expanding elsewhere, but I have confidence I can become the destination for unique food to go in the area.”
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