When Jatinder Sahota’s parents opened a store in Minster, Kent, in 1989, they had big ambitions. “They were visionaries,” says Jatinder, “and they weren’t held back by the old mentality of retailing.”

The facts
  • Location: Minster, Sheerness, Kent
  • Trading since: 1989
  • Staff: 10
  • Hours: 6.30am-8pm Mon-Sat, 6.30am-6pm Sun
  • Size: 1,400sq ft
  • Style: A convenience store embedded in the local community. Competition includes a Costcutter around the corner, and a Morrisons, Iceland and Poundland nearby.

When his parents passed away, Jatinder took over the shop, using their retailing principles and taking it from strength to strength. “My parents gave me a great basis to work from. My motivation is doing right by them and taking the business forward,” he says. 

Despite a refit five years ago, Jatinder started planning a complete overhaul of his store at the end of 2013. “It was already a nice store and we were getting year-on-year growth throughout the recession,” he says. “Though we feared tearing up something that already worked, you have to stay ahead of the game.”

As well as working closely with Musgrave throughout the development, Jatinder listened to suggestions from his customers and visited several top retailers, including Independent Achievers Academy 2014 overall best shop winner Ramesh Shingadia.

The refit meant gutting the shop and putting the customer journey at the heart of the store’s layout. The new store opened at the beginning of December and shoppers now walk straight into a fresh aisle, which is considerably bigger than it was before.

Top tips
  1. Focus on your core: Jatinder has reduced the number of lines in several categories but boosted sales by stocking core products. For example, he reduced his household products from three metres to 1.6metres, but grew sales by 8%.
  2. Create promotional bays: They increased the number of promotional and seasonal bays from 1.5 to five. The decision has been incredibly popular with shoppers.
  3. Don’t be afraid of waste: “If people say their waste is 0.75%, I’d say they’re not being adventurous enough with their stock,” says Jatinder. “My waste fluctuates between 2.5-3.5% and I’m happy with that. I’ve heard M&S are at 9-11%.”

Aisles have been made wider, the ceiling has been raised, there’s LED lighting and a black tiled floor throughout the fresh section, giving the shop a more upmarket feel. The chillers have been kitted out with Delta double-glazed doors that look fantastic and will reduce energy costs by up to 35%.

“Our focus was on food-to-go, in-store bakery, fresh and alcohol,” Jatinder says. He is also increasing his local produce. Through Twitter he struck up a partnership with a local butcher that has 14 outlets across the south-east and Kent. “We’re going to be the first convenience store they supply,” says Jatinder. “We’ll be like a mini butcher.”

Jatinder has focused heavily on shopper missions, particularly the ‘big night in’, grouping alcohol with large packs of crisps and frozen food. He says they almost halved the space given to frozen, concentrating on pizza, chips and ice cream, and sales are up by between 18% and 20%.

To increase space for fresh, shelf depths for grocery items such as jams have been reduced and several categories have been condensed, which has actually improved sales in those categories.

“You need to have your core range. We cut some of the lines we didn’t need. You won’t find 15 versions of coffee here. We have big brand, mid-range and budget – that’s all we need and that goes across the board.”

Staff have also had to raise their game and Jatinder is carrying out training through Musgrave. “We can’t sit back because we’re looking for growth,” he says. To give staff responsibility, he hands over control of certain categories including letting them do the orders and implementing promotions or in-store theatre.

The work that went into the refit has paid off. Sales are up 13% year on year and the store has just had its most successful Christmas, with sales up 23%. 

“The customer reaction has been overwhelming. People say they’re lucky to have a store like this on their doorstep, and those who knew my parents have said they’d be really proud of what we’ve achieved.”