Surrounded by competition, Kamini Patel has been in business for 30 years, and her shop is punching above its weight by giving people what they want.
“Most of my customers are unemployed and they are very tight with their money. They are always looking for bargains,” she says.
This is where price-marked packs (PMPs) play a big role in her business. Wherever possible she stocks them across all different categories such as groceries, pet food, and most important of all, her cigarettes.
Nearby supermarkets include a Morrisons and a Tesco, but those stores sell tobacco without PMPs. By being flexible and giving people in the community exactly what they need, Kamini is competing very effectively with the multiples.
To illustrate just how useful PMPs are for her, if she sold non-PMP 500g packs of Frosties for £1.89, her shoppers would not touch them, but the same product price-marked at £2.49 flies off the shelf.
Other reasons people visit her store are to use the free cash machine, and to have a flutter on the National Lottery.
Many regular players have already told Kamini that they are being done a poor deal by Camelot, which is doubling the price of a Lotto ticket to £2 later this year. But she says the only way to know for sure how their buying habits will change is once the price goes up in autumn.
“It’s going to be good for Camelot, but the players will probably lose out,” she says.
The store was rewarded by Bestway last year for its exceptional management of the soft drinks and baby care categories.
The key is getting your promotions right, says Kamini. Two cans of Coca-cola for £1, and two 500ml bottles for £2 have been rock solid promotions for the store, and she also makes good use of Bestway’s regular offers.
As well as knowing what her shoppers want, she also knows the value of developing relationships with them – something she and her assistant Chris have been doing for more than 30 years.
They build links with the community by sponsoring nearby Tithe Farm Lower School, where Kamini’s children went. She donates cash when the school is raising money to buy something, or gives gifts when there is a raffle.
Her two boys have followed in the family tradition. Sagar trades in nearby Markyate, while Vishal has a store in Birmingham.
“They learned about retailing in this shop when they were growing up, but now I am learning from them,” she says.
But Chris, who was nominated for the NFRN’s employee of the year award, points out that the boys had the benefit of growing up with a superb teacher in the art of how to treat your customers.
There are plenty of mischievous youngsters in the area, some of whom are not afraid to try it on and cause trouble in the shops of Houghton Regis. But Kamini and Chris know most of them by name, along with their parents. Because of this, Nikes Newsagent avoids many of the problems that neighbouring businesses get.
“People say to us that our shop is very friendly, and I think that’s very important,” says Kamini.
“I know all my customers and I know their friends and relations too, and I really enjoy it. It feels like my family. The best feeling is when you are talking to your customers and they walk away happy.”
SHOP AT A GLANCE
- NAME: Nikes Newsagent
- LOCATION: Houghton Regis, Berkshire
- SIZE: 500sq ft
- OPEN: 6am – 9pm, Mon to Sat; 7am – 2pm, Sun
- Staff: 3
- Date trading began: April 1982
KAMNINI’S TOP TIPS
- Use price-marked packs wherever you can
- Be friendly and get to know what your customers want
- Keep the shop clean and tidy