LOCATION, location, location – put your business in the right place and you give yourself every chance of winning. Amisha Patel got her location spot on when she took over this business on the south coast almost three years ago.
She had plenty of experience as a saleswoman, having previously worked for furniture supplier DFS, and she made a shrewd decision to set up shop in a town populated to a large extent by wealthy retirees with a decent amount spare cash.
“There are a lot of older people who live here and they tend to have a lot of disposable income,” she says.
“They just need looking after and friendly people who they can trust. The part of the job I enjoy most is chatting to customers every day – you don’t need to read the paper to know what’s going on.”
One of the first changes she made to the business was to alter the layout and give everything a good clean. Since she took over she has quadrupled turnover to a healthy £12,000 a week.
One thing she learned at DFS was that being a good salesperson is all about attitude – and her first rule is that service should always come with a smile.
“If people can’t find an item I will always go and get it for them. It’s rude just to point and say ‘It’s over there’ – because it shows you don’t have time for your customer. Always give people a welcome and a smile and be happy to help.”
When possible she prefers to have her female staff members behind the counter because customers find it easier to talk to them.
There is a diary kept behind the counter for whoever is on duty. Whenever a customer is looking for something they do not stock, an entry is made in the diary to keep a record. Where possible an order will be made for any items they do not currently have. Most recently they bought in confetti for a celebration and some straws for a child in hospital who was not able to drink from a glass.
“Convenience means when they walk in, you should have what they are looking for,” says Amisha.
One thing that sets her business apart from competitors is that they deliver to anyone who can’t come out to the shop – be it elderly people or mums who are busy looking after children. They deliver to 250 people on the paper round and on top of that there are about 100 more deliveries a week for groceries.
“It’s about looking after people. And those customers who are regularly delivered to – for them it becomes a routine to buy from the shop. And ultimately it’s all about money.”
News is her most important category, followed by confectionery and soft drinks, then beer, fresh and frozen food and toiletries. Although Amisha has an off licence she deliberately chooses not to focus that heavily on her BWS offering because it is hard to compete with the supermarkets and because of the problems alcohol causes in society. Instead she concentrates on areas like stationery where she is an expert. Greeting cards are one of the most important footfall drivers, with 300 sold every month.
“These cards are an English tradition and we sell something for every occasion,” she says.
Getting the look of the shop right is important, and this is partly down to using attractive packaging – like the penny sweet jars which add a touch of theatre. The sweets, which come from Bonds, are popular with customers of all ages – not just children.
Amisha has big plans to open a second, bigger store nearby, but she has no intention of joining a symbol group – and she is proud to be going it alone.
She says: “The best thing about being an independent retailer is that you are working for yourself. You are your own boss.”
SHOP AT A GLANCE
- The Village Convenience Store,
- Sompting, West Sussex
- Trading since April 2010
- Staff: five
- Size: 800 sq ft
AMISHA’S TOP TIPS:
- Give service with a smile
- Always keep stocked up on the right products
- Always ask customers how you can improve