Parker Motor Services has owned this site since 1984, but only within the last two years has the shop expanded to a full convenience offering.
Manager Alan Bassett has worked for the company for 40 years – but this has been his first year running the convenience part of the business. However, he does have retailing pedigree. When he was a boy his parents ran a fruit and veg stall at Leicester market.
And with a background in mechanical engineering, his experience in the garage has given him a top-notch grounding in how to keep his customers happy.
“One thing I learned was that if you can get it right and give the customer the right thing first time, you will keep them happy,” he says.
And a happy shop is a profitable shop – as he has discovered in the last 12 months. Much of the good mood is down to the staff he employs, who are happy to spend time and effort helping elderly customers and explaining to them about the products.
“The girls who work in the shop are absolutely brilliant – they have a real personal touch,” he says.
“It’s important to have a social atmosphere in the shop where people chat because you want it to be a pleasant shopping experience. If people are relaxed, they are more likely to buy.”
While some shops can feel cramped, this store was designed from the outset to have plenty of space – with wide aisles to make it easy for disabled users and mums with prams to go up and down.
The LED lights are also part of that design – saving energy costs as well as providing a clear, crisp light, which makes the products on shelf look bright.
Among the best sellers are Ginsters products – helped by the placing of the coffee machine right alongside the shelf.
Promotions are a big part of the business and as well as using Palmer & Harvey’s monthly offers, Alan runs his own as well. One of their best is energy drink Emerge, which is price-marked at 37p but Alan sells them at four-for-£1.
To offer deals as good as this you need to be able to buy at the right price he says. If you buy at the right price, you can sell at the right price, and that will keep your customers happy.
In other categories there are options to put prices up as well though. Because of the shop’s location, he has also been able to mark up cigarette prices to give average margins of six per cent – and so far sales have actually increased – because while there are supermarkets in the area, there are few stores offering the level of convenience of Parker Motor Services.
Soon, Alan hopes to be offering hot food to go as part of the business and is now going through the motions with the local council to get that up and running.
He has a particularly good wine section and while he admits he is no connoisseur, he makes good use of advice from suppliers like Accolade Wines and Pernod Ricard, using PoS to help shoppers make decisions more easily.
Although he was very careful to promote the event responsibly, especially being as this is a forecourt, Alan was due to hold his first wine-tasting evening in the store earlier this month – a bit of theatre that could be repeated potentially if things go well.
Alan is clear that once you have gotten price, products and service right, there is one essential ingredient that all retailers must include in their work – the business of fun.
He says: “I always say there are three things you have to do in this life – sleep, work and enjoy. And if you enjoy your work then you’ve got two of those things taken care of.”
SHOP AT A GLANCE:
- Name: Parker Motor Services
- Location: Syston, Leicestershire
- Size: 3,000 sq ft
- Staff: 14
- Opening hours: 6am-10pm Monday to Saturday, 7am to 10pm Sunday
- Date trading began: April 2011
ALANS TOP TIPS:
– Keep your customers happy – supply the products they want
– Train your staff – they must know the products and how to sell them
– Employ team players – you want staff who will go the extra mile