7-9 Greenway Parade, Chesham, Buckinghamshire, HP5 2DA
‘My journey from CTN to convenience’
Londis Chesham’s successful expansion over the years can be traced back the 1970s, when Chandra’s family had emigrated to the UK from Uganda. “When we came to England, it was very difficult to get jobs at the time,” Chandra says. “My father suggested we buy businesses and that’s when we bought our first shop. From then, I was buying rundown shops, developing them into businesses which could be successful and then selling them on.”
Chandra has taken on this mindset to help develop and expand his 2,000sq ft Londis on Chesham’s Greenway Parade, in Buckinghamshire. The former Costcutter store started off as a newsagent selling impulse items. However, its expansion to its current size was made possible following the acquisition of a former butcher’s next door. This has brought several benefits, not just for Chandra, but for his customers as well.
Chandra says: “I’ve had this shop since the 1980s, so it’s been in the neighbourhood a long time. When we acquired the butcher’s next door, we knocked down the walls and merged the two buildings together. It’s helped us add products that are in demand, such as chilled, fresh, meat and food to go. The expansion has helped attract more customers from the area. Adding to our range has helped increase the average basket spend from £3-4 to £7-8.
“We also have a lot of elderly customers nearby who aren’t so physically able, and the expansion has been useful for them. Instead of having to walk into several shops on the same parade, they’re able to get what they need from one location. The larger floor space also provides an area for our customers to chat, so there’s a social element to the refit as well. “We’ve been running the store for a long time and the customers know it is a family business. They know the other convenience store on the parade is also run by us.”
How community spirit helped during the pandemic
The area surrounding the shop consists of a range of elderly people and families, which Chandra and his staff have built relationships with throughout the years.
“We’ve known several generations of them and seen certain people grow up, get jobs and even have their own families,” says Chandra. “When the pandemic broke out last year, we gained new customers due to word of mouth. Everyone was looking for shops that had availability. We didn’t have to do any advertising. We also had to ensure all our customers had fair availability by restricting how much they could purchase from the shop.
“Those new customers might not visit us again when everything is back to normal, but they have us in their minds now from their experience over the past year.”
How we continue to support customers
Retailers across the UK opened home-delivery services following the coronavirus pandemic, with the trend set to stay. However, Londis Chesham had been providing home-delivery services to certain customers since before the outbreak.
“We’ve had many regular customers over the years who have moved out of Chesham and some of them still visit. There’s one elderly customer who moved nearly three miles away to Amersham but is still choosing to support us,” says Chandra. “We’ve been doing home deliveries to her for 11-to-12 years and we have no minimum spend requirements for her. It’s just nice to return the same support she’s given us over the years.
“There are some customers who ask us to help them with their pension documentation as well. You don’t build that kind of trust right away. It takes years to be able to do that.”
How my range has developed
The store has no off-licence as alcohol is offered by Chandra’s son-in-law, Hitesh, in the shop down the road. Instead, fresh and food to go make up the store’s core range.
Instead of competing against each other, Chandra and Hitesh work together to help increase sales. “Hitesh’s store offers more impulse items, so whenever his customers can’t get anything there, he recommends they visit our store and we do the same,” he says.
How I compete against the multiples
Despite having the only convenience store in the neighbourhood, Chandra still faces competition from major supermarkets such as Morrisons nearby, who have slowly moved into the area over the years.
“I remember when people supported small shops and supermarkets closed on Sundays. Eventually there was more competition as the multiples were allowed to legally open on a Sunday, which did provide a new challenge to us,” Chandra says.
“We do try to offer products which the supermarkets can’t, such as Indian items and fresh coffee. It’s also about giving a personal service to each customer.
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