By focusing on offering good value and catering to a solid customer base with his great range of stock, Serge Khunkhun has been able to grow his Wolverhampton business into a successful symbol store with a promising future. Andrew Lowry reports

Confidence and ambition aren’t qualities Serge Khunkhun lacks. After more than a decade in insurance, he made the unconventional move from a high-level sales role to convenience retail.

“I wanted something totally fresh, a completely new approach,” he says, “and I thought retail would offer both a lifestyle that I wanted and an area where I could innovate and be creative. I don’t see it as just running a corner shop, I see it as running a business with vision.

“I came to retail without any background in it, you get a lot of second generation retailers and first generation retailers struggling to pass on their business to a second generation that doesn’t want it, but I’m not a part of that. It’s not a dowdy old-fashioned store – there’s lots of room for fresh approaches.”

 <figcaption>Keep your chiller well stocked with best-selling soft drinks and make the most of the warmer months</figcaption>” width=”173″ height=”300″> Keep your chiller well stocked with best-selling soft drinks and make the most of the warmer months</figure><p>Having celebrated his fourth anniversary in his present shop last year, business is booming for Serge – but it wasn’t always so. “After our first few years, our footfall was in decline,” he explains. “We took a hit from the opening of a Tesco Express nearby. About 18 months ago, we were faced with a situation where decisions had to be made – so we made them.”</p><p>First on the list was joining up with Premier. Serge said Premier reps were keen on the store, but floor space limitations meant there were concerns over the shop being able to handle the volume of stock that would be coming in.</p><p>Not one to miss an opportunity, Serge turned to what lay right in front of him. The unit next door had lain empty for more than 20 years. “It had just been gathering dust for all that time – totally going to waste. I met the owners outside – they were waiting for someone to come and check the meter.</p><p>“I invited them in for a cup of tea and ended up offering to buy it then and there. It was the first time we’d ever met.”</p><p>This bold move, and the subsequent refit and expansion, led to Serge being snapped up by Premier. “This was good news. Our turnover almost doubled, and our average basket when up to £5-£6.</p><p>“We were able to double the space for chilled soft drinks to 2.5 metres, and that has been very successful. We also now have 4.5 metres of chilled beer.”</p><p>The move to Premier also meant Serge has been able to offer the symbol group’s Euro Shopper range, which he says has been popular with the wealth of value-led customers surrounding the shop.</p><p>The extra space has also allowed him to quadruple the size of his pet food offering, a move that has been well received by the large number of pet lovers in the area.</p><p>[pull_quote_right]I thought retail would offer both a lifestyle that I wanted, and an area where I could innovate and be creative[/pull_quote_right]</p><p>Serge says he has even installed metal rings outside the business to allow customers to tie their dogs up safely.</p><p>Despite competition from a Costcutter, several independents and a Tesco Express, Serge is untroubled: “It does keep you on your toes,” he says, “but I don’t watch them obsessively – in fact, I don’t watch them at all.</p><p>“Everyone has their own approach and their own version of what will work. It’s all about doing what you do well, not worrying about what others are doing.”</p><p>Next up for Serge is a transition to the digital realm for his marketing, with a website and social media presence both in the pipeline. This should complement his already strong physical marketing: “Every few weeks I send out a bunch of local lads with 3,000 leaflets, and we see them again a lot in the store.</p><p>“I don’t do a paper round, so this is a good substitute for the kids, and when I pay them they usually spend it in the shop anyway – so everyone’s a winner.”</p><p>Further plans include the possibility of expansion, and instituting an apprenticeship scheme.</p><p>“Retail is a hard life, and it can be draining, but it’s enormously rewarding and I have a huge passion for it.”</p><p>Passion, drive and innovation: whoever becomes Serge’s apprentice will have a fine teacher indeed.</p><h2>Visit my store</h2><p><iframe style=