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Kashif Nadeem invested £500,000 in a store he hopes will serve his Borders community for decades to come. Three months after reopening, the store has passed its first test with flying colours. Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski reports
February was a month of shocks for the residents of Greenlaw on the Scottish borders. First was the weather: during the ‘Beast from the East’, which covered the UK in snow, the small town was shut off from the outside world for a full six days – the first time anything like it had happened since 2010.
But when many residents had ventured out to their local shop for essential items, they were greeted with another, more positive, shock: the business some had not shopped at for months had been utterly transformed. “Customers came back in and said, ‘Wow, it’s been done up,’” owner Kashif Nadeem says.
This is something of an understatement. The business was essentially rebuilt at the end of last year as part of a £500,000 project – allowing Kashif the space to create a very modern convenience and foodservice operation.
The changes were inspired by his customers themselves: “The biggest problem I faced was that people would come in, buy a few things, then go somewhere else to finish their shop. My vision was that they would finish their shop here.”
However, at the time, the store itself was not laid out to meet the needs of these customers.
“The shop was a series of little rooms with grocery at the back, newspapers in another area and then there was the main shop. The store area back then was about 700sq ft, but by opening it up we’ve made the selling space 1,104sq ft,” he says.
Most of this space was found by bringing down the walls that separated each section. It was an operation that saw 15 tonnes of stone removed from the store, one load-bearing wall removed, most of the electric and plumbing redone, and the store fully refitted.
“It was supposed to take six weeks but we reopened in four. I had a company in to demolish the shop and they said they’d be five to seven days, but then they kept dragging it on. So I sacked them and me and a couple of friends did the work ourselves in three days.”
With the new space, Kashif has been able to improve his range of grocery, add 5m to his alcohol range, add to his frozen offer, and even open an in-store café offering chicken nuggets, breakfasts, sandwiches and paninis.
“There’s no hot food for 10 miles and there’s a 300-van caravan site near us that fills up in the summer. So we’ve added a café, a slush machine and we’re going to add an ice cream machine too,” he says.
For Kashif, a fan of the trade press and passionate follower of the latest retail innovations, the work was also a chance to embrace top trends.
“I’ve built the store for 2018. We’re going to be using Bluetooth marketing tool AdPod – with their system, any phone within 500 metres will be sent a Bluetooth message. Being on a trunk road, lots of cars will get our messages, showing them everything we offer – they can also download our loyalty card.”
All this hard work is, Kashif believes, essential in a market that’s become “unbelievably competitive”.
“The nearest Tesco supermarket is around 19 miles away, and yet they still come and deliver to people’s doorsteps here.”
So, perhaps, in this light, Kashif will remember the Beast from the East fondly. With the community shut off (even he couldn’t get in), his staff kept the business open 16 hours a day, with the café offering hot snacks to those venturing out in the cold. The high availability, even after six days of being cut off, staff concern for elderly shoppers and the general standard of the store all left locals visibly impressed.
“It put down a marker,” Kashif agrees.
And all the while, not a Tesco delivery van was in sight.
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