Based in Wallyford, Mohammed Aslam is a village retailer who likes to think big, from the humble bread roll to lavish community donations, he strives to provide the best for his customers.
Location: Wallyford, East Lothian
Staff: 13 part-time
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 6am-10pm
Size: 3,000sq ft
Trading since: December 2014
Style: On the main commuter road to Edinburgh, Mohammed’s store is in a residential community opposite a Tesco Express, with Sainsbury’s a bus ride away
The East Lothian Day-Today owner has more than 20 years’ experience in the industry and has had almost 20 stores to his name. But that doesn’t mean he has forgotten the basics.
When he spent half a million pounds converting a run-down Wallyford pub into a store last year he knew he needed to evaluate the needs of his community and is now turning over £70,000 a week as a result – including 1,200 in-store baked items a day.
“We were selling 70–80 hot beverages a day so adding a croissant or muffin to a drink was a good way to increase basket spend,” he says.
“We knew that once the smell of baked bread hit customers, they wouldn’t be able to resist.”
But enticing customers with the smell of freshly baked goods isn’t the only way to bring in the crowd and retain shopper loyalty. Mohammed’s underground stockroom, or “Aladdin’s cave,” as he calls it, with £375,000-worth of stock, allows the retailer to offer the best promotions in the area.
In addition to the regular three-weekly Today’s Group promotions, Mohammed offers extended offers and a weekly manager’s special deal which includes up to a further 15 discounted products. He chooses his promotions by evaluating supermarket discounts, in particular Asda and Tesco, then decides the best way to respond.
“We always pass on the full savings to our customers – it’s a great way to get people to come back.”
In June this year, he thanked his customers by organising a store birthday party. He organised a raffle, with a main prize of a 42inch smart TV, as well as face-painting, Disney character performers and special “crazy offers”.
What’s your bread and butter?: Mohammed noticed that the village was lacking a bakery so he installed a fresh bread section in-store to cater for customers who couldn’t make the journey.
Buying power: Rather than sticking to a small stockroom, Mohammed has a large space under his store that enables him to buy in large quantities and offer unique or extended promotions.
Celebrate: “It’s not just about taking customers’ money, but giving back,” he says. To thank his customers he threw a first store birthday party, using Facebook and posters to invite residents.
As well as thanking his customers’ in store, he also donates regularly to the community and has been formally thanked by local council members.
But his contributions to the local school, football teams and work with local government to take children off the street and into youth clubs has resulted in the community displaying their gratitude.
He has been formally asked to judge local competitions along with other senior community figures, and has received commendations from local councillors who have described his store in the local press as ‘the very heart of the village’.
There were originally two other stores in the village, but they closed shortly after Mohammed opened his store. His location and focus on promotions
and community mean that he’s in an ideal position to handle the pressure and cater for the potential new wave of customers that will arrive with the building of 1,700 new houses by the end of 2015.
The influx of new customers could overwhelm his store, but he is in the process of extending it by 1,000sq ft.
“We’d like to offer an even wider range of products to our ever-growing customer base,” he says.
The new customers provide new possibilities for the Mohammed. He has no doubt that he will take it in his stride and find innovative ways to use his fascia-branded store to support his shoppers’ needs.
“With our wide range of products and strong community connections, we are well positioned to capitalise on the new crowd,” he adds.