With the prospect of a new Aldi arriving on his doorstep, Gateshead retailer Manjinder Singh had to act fast. After some extensive research he set upon a plan to offer products, services and value that Aldi couldn’t match. Charlie Faulkner reports

News that an Aldi was set to open its doors just a ‘stone’s throw away’ from you would be a scary prospect for most retailers – it certainly was for Manjinder Singh, owner of Premier Dunston Convenience Store in Tyne & Wear. But rather than falling by the wayside, this challenge inspired him to adapt.

After the initial panic had worn off, Manjinder did his research and found ways to offer products, services and value in ways Aldi doesn’t.

Located at the ‘gateway’ to Newcastle and Gateshead city centres, the 1,000sq ft Premier store is surrounded by factories and dealerships but also sits among a hub which includes a Boots store, sandwich shop, Chinese takeaway and a social club.

When Manjinder first took over the shop eight years ago – already owning a Best-one a few streets away – his sales were in the region of £8,000 to £9,000 a week. Perhaps surprisingly, after Aldi opened its doors 18 months ago they went up to £13,000 thanks to the increased footfall it provided.

But he didn’t rest on his laurels and following a subsequent £90,000 shop refit, he now boasts sales of around £20,000 a week.

“It was a high-end shop fit, and it looks a bit like a nightclub with spotlights at the counter,” says Manjinder. “It’s a talking point and I think people feel nice when they shop here. It provides a feel-good factor.”

And friendly service has been integral to the shop’s success. “Aldi just want customers to come in, do their shop and go,” he says. “We speak to people, take bags to people’s cars and sometimes take bags to their front doors.”

The refit has meant he has been able to capitalise on the management of space, ensuring bestsellers feature prominently. He put in his own cigarette gantry at counter level, freeing up prime space for other products. And it means the shop isn’t tied into contracts or terms with tobacco companies.

“The spirits are along the top, on show – it’s silly having a hidden product take up the whole of that area,” he says.

pepsiAlcohol and soft drinks are big sellers for the store. Products like 2l bottles of Pepsi are pricemarked at £1.69, but when there’s a promotion on at the cash and carry Manjinder buys enough that he can sell them at £1 a bottle long after the competition has had to revert to the higher price.

He has 10 lines which are always at a low price – offering branded items at a discount, which Aldi is unable to do. This drives footfall and has a long-term impact.

“Yes, I’m not making a lot but that offer means a guy will buy his wife’s wine while he’s here, or the kids’ sweets.”

The reason he opted to become a Premier store is the promotions the symbol group offers and its ‘Spend and Save’ Scheme. The scheme means if retailers spend £10,000 they get a 1% discount, if they spend £20,000 they get a 2% discount, and so on up to 5%. Manjinder is so impressed he’s in the process of converting his Best-one store to Premier too.

As well as Aldi, Manjinder’s store has to battle for trade against a Co-op, Londis, Lifestyle Express, Nisa, a petrol station, and three or four independents all within a one mile radius.

The shop doesn’t sell magazines but it does offer PayPoint, lottery and a MyHermes parcel service – the latter being an exclusive service for the area which has massively driven footfall. “That was a great initiative for us – it brings people in who would never have come in my shop otherwise and it means they now shop here as well,” says Manjinder.

The store recently made it in to the IAA’s Top 100. “I feel proud and it’s made me and my wife’s hard work feel worth it and given us recognition in a way that’s not just in a monetary value.

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