Bowler hat lights, freshly-ground coffee and exposed walls sound more like a Shoreditch hangout than a corner shop in the home counties. But in his newly-opened store just outside Ascot, Roli Ranger has managed to unite both worlds.

The facts
  • Hours: 6am-8pm Monday-Friday, 8am-10pm Saturday-Sunday
  • Trading since: May 2015
  • Size: 1,600sq ft
  • Staff: Eight part-time
  • Style: A premium village store under the Londis fascia. It’s located on Sunninghill high street and competition includes a nearby One Stop.

“Why do people enjoy going to coffee shops so much?,” he asks. “I wanted to recreate that relaxing atmosphere so they could shop in a warm environment.”

Roli says he wanted to tap into the popularity of coffee culture and supermarkets such as Whole Foods to create his vision of the future of convenience. Since the middle of last year he has been gathering inspiration from the internet as well as visiting shops across the country.

“I only visited successful places. I wanted to learn what made them successful, so I could create something special and different,” he explains.

The £70,000 premium-style refit doesn’t stop at the aesthetics of the store. He has ensured his products suit his affluent customer base, as well as adding sophisticated and unique extras, from £5 refillable oil and vinegar bottles to a freshly-ground coffee station and premium meringues. The latter was, surprisingly, his most popular product on opening weekend.

“We completely sold out of them, it must have been because we opened on a bank holiday weekend and customers wanted to treat themselves,” he says.

Top tips
  1. Seek inspiration: Roli put a lot of effort into researching the right look for his new store. He conducted store visits around the country as well as looking online.
  2. Creativity versus community: Although he’s placed an emphasis on premium treats, Roli hasn’t forgotten core ranging. He says: “I’ve tried to stand out with my choice of products, but I’ve got to cater for all of my customers’ needs.”
  3. Shelf aware: Your store is more than your shelves. “The aim was to create a rustic feel – a lot of attention was paid to every detail,” he says. From the ceiling to floor, Roli made sure his store vision was complete.

As well as premium products, Roli, who has been a Londis retailer for 22 years, understands the importance of stocking a complete range. Within his fresh produce he has fruit and vegetables from Covent Garden to Londis’ basics. It allows him to keep his own identity and cater for all of his customers.

“I’ve been a Londis operator for a long time and I kept my independence with them,” he says. “But we shouldn’t pigeon-hole ourselves into one type of store. Each retailer needs their own creative vision.”

Although he actively encourages retailers to think outside of the box, Roli understands that his type of store would not work for every type of retailer or community. He still offers the National Lottery and Payzone, for the complete convenience package, but argues that stores are more than their services and should represent the retailer as well as the customer.

Describing his store as “rustically modern” he hopes the idea reflects who he is as a businessman. “Like most, I appreciate the traditions of business but we should all be seeking for more and asking: ‘what is next’? I hope this store reflects that – I try to live and breathe it,” he says. “It’s easy to forget, but regardless of our shop size or customer type we’ve got to ask ourselves – does our store reflect us?”

This attitude may sound a little overwhelming for some independent retailers, but it makes good business sense. In the faceless world of multiples, Roli is making his store personable and encouraging others to do the same.

It’s still early days – the shop’s official launch was earlier this month – but if it all goes well the next step is to relaunch his other store in Ascot.

“I’ll give it a month to get into the swing of things and then I’ll let you know,” he says.