Three quarters of Jon Greenwood’s customers are students, while 15% comprise staff and the remaining 10% are villagers and passing trade. To make the most of his captive market, Jon has tailored his Nisa shop to really push their buttons.

“It’s about giving them something a bit different that they really want,” he says.

[pull_quote_right]I think with these colours, this [Nisa] is the best-looking symbol fascia there is[/pull_quote_right]

Strangely for a convenience store, the shop’s busiest trading period is between 6pm and 7pm on a Monday, when students are topping up on their supplies after the weekend. The quietest days are Saturdays and Sundays.

The range on offer is different to a typical Nisa store –– there is little demand for baby products, and again unusually for a store such as this, they don’t sell that much tobacco. But they do sell a lot of everything else.

Fresh meat is supplied every day exclusively to Jon’s shop by Wolds Select, and the excellent fruit and veg range is topped up daily from the Leeds market. Promotions are a big draw for students and these help to shift a huge amount of pizza and beer. But for all the student-friendly and high-spec foods on offer, bananas have always been the store’s top-selling SKU and remain so today.

Top tips

Symbol of success: Join a symbol group that works for you. Since rebranding as Nisa, Jon’s gross profit is up 4% and turnover is up £25,000 a month.

Think different: Offer something different to the competition, that your customers really want. Jon’s store has an aisle dedicated to gluten-free, Fairtrade and organic foods.

Price it right: Give your customers prices they like ­– even among the fancy foods on offer, the £1 price tag is a winner with Jon’s student customers.

“We don’t have much waste because we buy fruit and veg little and often,” says Jon.

“We resupply through Leeds market, rather than buying a pallet of strawberries which is going to go out of date.”

Also, with 1,100 Chinese students studying at the university, there is a demand for authentic Chinese foods, and they stock these accordingly.

So many students these days have allergies and intolerances, Jon says, and his range of organic, Fair Trade and gluten-free products beats Tesco’s hands-down.

While Jon has succeeded by tailoring a range to meet his shoppers’ demand, he felt the business wasn’t quite right and last year he joined Nisa. It’s been one of the best decisions he’s made. 

Since then his average gross profit is up 4% and sales are up an average of £25,000 a month. Customers have told him the new staff are nicer – perhaps it is the look of the uniforms, because they are exactly the same people as before.

“The perception was that even the people were new,” he says. The fresh look has given the business a much-needed boost, and Jon’s background as a retailer with Morrisons has taught him the value of keeping your store looking brand new at all times.

Size: 5,000sq ft

Staff: 50 (12 permanent and 38 students)

Hours: 7am-11pm, Mon to Sat; 11am-5pm, Sun

Trading since: October 2001

Style: A large premium end convenience store with a big focus on fresh and chilled. It’s in the heart of York University, which has 16,000 students. The student union shop is immediately next door.

During term time Jon’s shop turns over £90,000 a week, and he felt confident about pressing Nisa for a bespoke design away from the usual colours of white, blue and yellow. Instead, his shop has a livery of black and gold – the same as York University’s sports teams.

“I think that with these colours, this is the best-looking symbol fascia there is,” he says.

The biggest challenge for Jon has been getting the staffing right. Before he took over there had been five managers in two years and there were 25 permanent staff. This was OK in term time, but in the quiet months of July to September it didn’t work. Now, with the staffing mix right, the business has flourished. The business has a bronze Investors in People award, of which Jon is rightly proud, and in August the business is going for its silver award. 

“You need to get the right people in the right place and look after them. If you pay a bit more they will reward you,” he says