Amrit Singh of Nisa High Heath quote

Amrit Singh’s Nisa Local High Heath in Walsall is located in the type of area that might sound familiar to many retailers, yet through hard work and innovation he, his brother Pav and his dad Harjit have made a business that stands out as one of the best shops in the country.

“We are in Walsall, which is a mix of council housing and homeowners. There are a lot of chimney pots and some care homes, too,” Amrit explains.

“But mainly it’s retired people and families. We get really busy from 3pm onwards when the school rush starts.”

The key to success has been keeping on top of trends, taking risks on new ideas and, crucially, paying attention to what his customers want.

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“We range in specialist areas like gins and American sweets, but we also do home delivery meals, which we order from local restaurants,” he says.

“For millennial customers we have Tango Ice Blast and vodka slush – aimed at the the 18-to-25 age range.”

The Nisa Local High Heath team is always looking for new ideas, researching where the newest success for the store is likely to come from.

Pivotal is comparing the store with other independents around the country, and getting a new perspective on what they’re doing well, two things that IAA benchmarking has allowed them to do.

“It allows you to see your shop as a customer would. It helps you improve and it’s a real motivator too, not just for me, but for my staff,” Amrit reveals.

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“Honestly, I’ve changed something every year I’ve been involved. Whatever I have done it’s improved standards and just going through the form lets you see what you’re good at or not good at. If I was to pinpoint one thing, I’d say that I have concentrated on my merchandising most.”

Nisa Local High Heath isn’t in a particularly affluent area, or a busy town centre with high footfall.

It’s a fairly typical residential location, but team’s hard work has made the shop exceptional.

What we do well

For Nisa Local High Heath, giving back to the community is a vital responsibility for a convenience store. It’s an area where they strive to go above and beyond. Initiatives such as community litter picks are an important part of their work. Spearheaded by Harjit, the team opened a community hub two units down from the shop. “We listen to residents and tackle issues important to them,” Amrit explains.

Other services available from the hub include a tradesmen advisory service. “If a person has had a quote for work that is way over the odds, they can ring us for a second opinion.”

“We’ve also tried to tackle intergenerational understanding by partnering schoolchildren with the elderly on our litter picks. Now, 30 kids and older people buddy up and litter pick together.”

“We also provide the school with fresh fruit and veg. We believe that we have a responsibility to do this,” continues Amrit.

The challenges we face

American sweets in Nisa Local High Heath

Sourcing specialist products for customers is one of Amrit’s biggest challenges. He’s found collaboration is key to success.

“I’ve doubled up with retailers outside of my area who I know are sourcing some good products, like American sweets, for example. These retailers are not my competition and if I order with them, we all get a better deal because we have bigger buying power. Collaborating is a win-win for me.”

Responsible retailing is another big challenge for Amrit. “ID refusal is always a big problem for us because we operate in a small community where everyone knows everybody,” he explains. 

“I work very hard with my staff to depersonalise any situation and tell customers being asked their age that staff have to do it to comply with the law, and that they’d be happy to serve them if they brought their ID. It’s about being firm, but diplomatic.”

HOW Nisa High Heath… became IAA Overall Best Shop

Frozen foods

Going specialist

“It’s key to our store,” says Amrit. “Having a fantastic range that people want to buy gives you the chance to become a destination store and to become a specialist. You can charge more if you are a specialist and move customers up to a premium offering.”

Overhaul chilled

“We’ve implemented the Co-op range and our chilled sales have more than doubled. I used to order 300 cases. Now I’m ordering 700 per week. People are moving to us for a main shop instead of a top-up shop. Before we were selling 90 sandwiches a week, now it’s 250.”

Effective ranging

“Break your shop down and look at your demographic. Who are your customers? If you are not ranging in the way they buy, they will find somewhere else. If you are in a deprived area you won’t get far with premium goods, for example.”

Get involved in the community

“Start with your local school, as it’s easy to help. We sponsored an outdoor play area, and wellies and raincoats for them. Don’t just sponsor your local football team – it’s easy to throw money at something. Actually get involved.”

Talk to customers

“I make a list of what customers want and then tell them exactly when it’s coming in so I’m not missing out on sales. If someone really wants something they will wait and then use you again.”

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