With their store located in a large, diverse housing estate in Dartford, Kent, Nimit and Nancy Patel have found success by stocking food from around the world.
Nisa Local Dartford Bridge, the Patel’s fourth store, opened in January 2016. It has one aisle dedicated to Polish, Lithuanian and Romanian food, and one dedicated to food from south Asia. In addition, they also have a chilled and frozen range for food from these regions, including meats, ready meals and snacks. They’ve also just introduced Polish baby food.
“When we first started the store, we only sold Nisa products,” says Nimit. “However, Nancy found out when she took our kids to the local school that there were Polish and Romanian people living in this area, so we started to stock the foods they were looking for.”
Of course, managing such a diverse range from a multitude of different suppliers can be challenging, as Nimit explains. “For example, with our Indian range, the rice will come from one supplier, the snacks from another and the spices from someone else. It can be like a jigsaw puzzle keeping on top of all the suppliers.”
Therefore, it’s important to track the products that are popular. Using EPoS data, Nimit keeps an eye on the items that are selling well, and the ones that aren’t. If the product is still on the shelf after three weeks, it’s time to look for an alternative.
“If the customers tell us they want a certain type of meat, for example, we’ll try it out to see how it goes. If it doesn’t sell fast, we won’t stock it again,” explains Klieno Fernandes, the store’s manager.
By stocking foods from around the world, the store has managed to carve out an advantage. Many of their Polish lines are ordered direct from a supplier in Poland, and the store stocks them at RRP, which still provides a healthy margin of 38%.
“We’re cheaper than all the other shops in the area. If you use a local supplier for these foods, they’ll put their own margin on top as well,” says Nimit.
The Patels also appreciate the need to keep on top of trends in more traditional products. Their biggest sellers are alcohol and chilled foods, and they stock a selection of cakes from a local supplier. Their fruit and veg is also locally sourced.
Recently, they’ve downsized the single crisps section in favour of larger sharing bags. They’ve also noticed that Co-op own-brand crisps have over taken Walkers as their most popular line.
“Price wise, the Co-op ranges are better. The customers see they get value for their money with the own-brand bags. Walkers used to be our most popular crisps line, but now we’re starting to get bags going out of date,” says Nimit.
Although there is no competition in the store’s immediate vicinity, the Patels know they’re still competing with large multiples in the town.
“We don’t sit back because there’s not much competition in the area,” says Klieno. “We compete with the town’s multiples by putting promotions in. Our customers say our prices are competitive, especially with the day-to-day items.”
“We’re very aggressive with this. We’re usually cheaper than the Co-op recommended prices – for example, if they say £1.20 each or £2.20 for two on something, we’ll go two for £2. Or, we have an offer on cheese – it’s £2.29, but for a pound more you’ll get another cheese.”
They’ve found that this aggressive approach to offers on core products such as milk attracts new footfall to the store, and those customers are more likely to stay and do the rest of their shopping. For that reason, they always focus on ordering what’s on offer from their supplier, to give the best, most affordable deals they can. “If you give people value, they keep coming back for more,” says Nimit.