A carefully planned rebuild has almost trebled weekly turnover in Maz Amin’s Canterbury store. Toby Hill finds out how he has taken his business from being an emergency shop of last resort to a modern, attractive and successful convenience store

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Imagine a shoebox: that’s what the store used to be like,” Maz Amin says. “Grills on the door, no windows, just one aisle in the middle and quite run-down.”

The store had been in the family for 30 years, but as the grocery market evolved, it had fallen on hard times. So, in 2016, Maz set out to transform its fortunes, investing in a revamp, in partnership with One Stop, that would bring it in line with the latest consumer trends. 

The changes paid off: weekly turnover has more than doubled, and often trebled. 

“It was about learning from the old store, and also making sure we matched our customer demographics – this is a big student area,” Maz explains. “We put in windows and LED lighting. Small things make a difference – we added grey trims to the windows, which gives it a more modern feel.”

He also tripled the store’s size, from 650sq ft to 1,800sq ft. This gave him the chance to reconfigure its layout, prioritising those categories best suited to the local area and trends in convenience shopping. In first place: fresh and chilled.

“Originally, we had a 1.2 metre chilled section. First, we expanded it to three metres. Now we’re in the process of expanding it again, to five metres.”

This emphasis on fresh and chilled chimes with students and with trends in shopper missions more broadly. It directs customers towards simple meals, whether pre-prepared salads, One Stop’s range of ready meals or those cooked from scratch with fresh meat or vegetables. In the latter instance, a big chilled range boosts basket spend across the rest of the store, as people buy other ingredients – sauces, noodles, pasta – to go with the fresh produce. 

A good chilled section also boosts people’s impression of the whole store, Maz adds. “It stops being just an emergency store and becomes more of a top-up place.”

As a result of these changes, chilled sales more than trebled. Maz puts this success down in part to the quality of One Stop’s core range, as well as its seasonal produce. “At the moment, we’ve got strawberries and bags of carrots, then, in the winter, they do a casserole veg bag.”

He also emphasises the importance of a broad range and strong promotional activity. “Rather than two facings of strawberry cheesecake,” he says, “I’d prefer to have one cheesecake and one custard tart, to give that sense of choice. 

“Our meal deal – a sandwich, drink and snack, for £3 – is very popular, especially with students. Demand for sandwiches and wraps has outgrown our chiller.”

It’s easy to get too worried about wastage, but you have to build some into your business model

While fresh and chilled is the centre of Maz’s business model, other sections are thriving, too. He moved his coffee machine from its old position, where it was to the right of the door and behind people’s line of sight as they entered, to the back. Beside it, he’s located a small bakery area, selling croissants and baguettes.

“We can sell up to 20 baguettes a day, and we’re planning to start baking in the evening, too, so people can grab a fresh baguette to go with their dinner,” he says. 

“It’s easy to get too worried about wastage, but you have to build some into your business model.”

Now, with the core of his store firmly established, Maz is starting to consider what areas he can develop alongside fresh and chilled. Currently in his sights is food to go.

“We do some hot stuff, but I want to introduce fried food – chips, nuggets, goujons – and then grow from there. I also want to introduce fresh baguette sandwiches. We’ve got the signage and are hoping to launch when the students come back.”

Once the chiller expansion is complete, he aims to introduce more local fruit and veg, and source other premium products, such as ready meals, from different suppliers.

“I like to give customers new things,” he says. It certainly doesn’t seem likely that he will run out of ideas any time soon. 

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