Jitinder stumbled on a near-perfect c-store site during a trip to a pub across the road. “It’s the most profitable pint I’ve ever had,” he says.
Located with a large car park in a residential area, and with a school, pub, community centre and park on his doorstep, this experienced retailer is making the most of opportunities with a cutting-edge store format.
Starting out in business in chip shops before turning to convenience 16 years ago, Jitinder’s experience in foodservice is being put to use in his new store.
“It all seems to have come full circle now. Food to go is quite big for us and we’re looking towards a fast food model with bacon butties, baked goods and fresh sandwiches made daily,” he explains.
Applying another lesson from foodservice and from leading convenience retailers, his new Premier store incorporates eat-in facilities with free Wi-Fi and power points. While many similar set-ups focus on being flexible working environments in urban areas, Jitinder’s is serving a purely social use.
“It’s a daytime alternative to the pub. It’s used by mums, builders and especially elderly customers who want somewhere to drink a coffee, read a paper or meet a friend,” he says. While the space ultimately means fewer shelves and products, his basket spend has grown. He adds: “I’m making my store a larger part of people’s day than just the point
It’s not the approach to fresh food to go, but fresh food in general that makes the store stand out.
“Tin days are over,” he says, describing how a larger ambient grocery range used to be canned in favour of fresh produce. “People aren’t doing weekly shops, it’s little and often, so the need to plan and purchase longer-life lines just isn’t there anymore. With the fresh-focused model we’ve adopted, we can build basket spend on those more frequent missions.”
We’re looking towards a fast food model with bacon butties, baked goods and fresh sandwiches made daily
He uses a large walk-in chiller to maintain quality and stock the volumes required to make the model work. Premium ready meal brands, such as Gourmade, and rapidly changing promotions give him a USP.
The large fresh focus also comes from Jitinder recognising that his store is the only one in the area, meaning it has to provide more than just a top-up shop solution.
Asked if being the only store in the area makes retailing easier, he answers: “Even with no competition, you still have to be competitive. People are more reliant on you and that means you have a responsibility to be fair on pricing. We adopt a lower margin model to build trust in what we do, because ultimately that’s what will build the volume that will make this store successful.”
Building trust also involves embedding the new store within the community, a process that began before the store even opened. He says: “The much-loved community Christmas tree was at risk last year because they hadn’t raised the required funds. We stepped in and made sure it could go ahead, which helped gain the community’s respect and show we’re here for them.”
- Health and hygiene first Asked how he’d advise a retailer looking to begin food preparation on-site, Jitinder says: “Health and hygiene come first. Until that’s right, there shouldn’t be any other focus in terms of foodservice.”
Reduce the reductions Jitinder says reduced to clear shouldn’t be a constant store feature. He says: “If you get into a habit of reducing things to clear your audience will expect it. It’s a downwards spiral to get into.”
Run shorter promotions Having shorter-running promotions is delivering results. “One-day deals can require a lot of management in store, but it means there’s a reward for customers that do come in frequently,” he says.