This time last year, Ranjit and Kiran Singh were running a successful, but tiny CTN in Maghull, Merseyside.
Just 12 months later and they’ve expanded the store to 1,300sq ft, added in post office services, and joined Parfetts’ Go Local Extra symbol group to become a convenience store.
The couple had been looking to expand for some time, so when the butcher next door put the business up for sale, they came to an agreement and bought it last August. It coincided with the Singhs being approached by the woman who ran the local post office and wanted to retire, so they snapped that opportunity up, too. “We kept thinking we wanted to expand,” says Kiran. “We had the footfall, but the shop was very small, so we were limited as to what we could sell.”
Think local: The Singhs have a deal with the local fishmonger, who sets up his van in their car park once a week. The fresh fish is a hit with customers and brings more people to the shop.
Promote your business: Adding flyers to newspapers to promote the many special offers they have through Go Local Extra has brought in a raft of new customers. Ranjit is also planning to advertise the business on the side of local buses.
Keep an eye out for opportunities: The Singhs are always looking for new ideas to improve their business, such as adding new local suppliers to their range.
With help from Parfetts, the shop looks fantastic. It is kitted out with new signage and LED lighting and now stocks an excellent range of products.
Local produce has become a large part of the store’s appeal. As well as selling locally-produced milk, eggs, meat, and fresh fruit and veg, they have a fishmonger who sets up a trailer in their car park every Thursday, which is a hit with customers.
The Singhs plans for growing their business didn’t come without its issues. Despite being a trusted part of the community for nine years, they had to battle with objections against them introducing alcohol – now a thriving area of the store. They also had to deal with people who were unhappy about them taking over the local post office as it meant moving its location. “With alcohol, I think people were afraid of what sort of shop it was going to be,” says Ranjit. “They didn’t want kids hanging around outside. But when they realised it was us expanding into next door and not just someone else coming in and opening an off licence they were more accepting.” Kiran adds that they now get good feedback all the time. “Customers are pleasantly surprised at how nice the shop is.”
Size: 1,300sq ft
Started trading: Dec 2004
Staff: Four (excluding them)
Hours:6am-9pm Monday to Sunday
Style: Convenience store and post office in residential area, with a school nearby and a Co-op just under a mile away
Not only does their breadth of products, strong promotions and services, such as dry cleaning, bring customers through the door, it’s Ranjit and Kiran themselves that drive footfall. They are heavily involved in the community, buying high-vis jackets for the local school’s outings and helping several local charities. Customers are keen to tell me how much better the shop is than the Co-op, where the staff “don’t care about their customers”.
Since it opened in January, the Singhs have more than doubled their turnover and scooped an award for best store from Parfetts. They’ve also caught the attention of other shop owners, most recently from Bargain Booze and Tesco franchise One Stop, who have stopped by to pick up tips on good retailing.
The biggest challenge they now face is an enviable one. “The shop’s taken off so well that we’re rushed off our feet, so we need to take on more staff,” says Ranjit. And they’re not stopping there. They have a five-year plan, which will see them extend the store even further into living accommodation behind the shop to introduce a deli and freshly-baked goods. “We have a spare flat upstairs, which we’re thinking about making into a kitchen, so we can cook and sell our own food as well,” he says.
The next few years are going to be very busy for Ranjit and Kiran, but they seem to be relishing it. “It has been a big learning curve for us as it’s all new, but we’re getting there,” says Kiran.