Taking advantage of opportunities is something that has made Kamlesh Patel – or KP to his customers – and his Bristol-based business a success for 25 years.
He knows his shoppers and exactly what they want. Originally a small post office, five years ago KP extended into the property next door to create a convenience store and post office.
“I realised there was phenomenal growth in convenience. One stop, quick service – that’s what customers want,” he says. “It’s gone really well. The community supports us and sales are up.
He immediately signed up with Booker’s symbol group Premier – a move he says has been hugely beneficial to business. “They were instrumental in helping us know what to stock,” he adds.
With five years as a full convenience store under his belt, KP is now looking at the next step for the shop, and with increasing regulation around tobacco – an area that accounts for £10,000-worth of his weekly sales – he is currently in talks with Bristol City Council to extend further.
“Small packs of tobacco are a major part of trade for us, so we have plans over the next 18 months to nearly double the size of the store. We lease the shop from the council, but if they sell the building freehold to us we can extend the store into a large garden space currently at the back of the store,” he explains.
The new store will have more fresh and chilled and a bigger food to go range. “We went from nothing to spending £800 a month at the wholesaler on hot food,” says KP. “We want to have a mini kitchen and start offering proper breakfast and have things like cheesy chips. We want more volume, more growth and more profit.”
As well as extending the shop, he’s also extending his reach into the local community and will sponsor a local football team for the first time next season.
KP’s store has a customer base that is hungry for value. There are several promotional bays and the chillers that run across the store’s entire back wall are filled with low-price products.
Saving money is also crucial. On the advice of his financial advisor, KP installed 36 solar panels on the shop’s roof five years ago. “We plug it into the lights and chillers and it saves us £6,000-7,000 a year,” he says. “It takes five years to get the return back and after that you’re making a profit.”
Despite around 1,200 people visiting every day, the shop remains well stocked, faced up and tidy. Part of this, KP says, is because of his background as an alcohol sales rep for Victoria Wine and Threshers, where he learned the importance of great merchandising.
He says: “Every night when we shut, an hour is set aside to tidy up, sweep, mop and face up the shop, so it’s ready in the morning.”
It’s this attitude and the dedication KP has to the shop that allows it to hold its own against a Morrisons just minutes away.
“We are lucky that we have a good site,” KP says. “But we also work hard, have the right product range, a good, full display, and value. Each and every section has to perform.”