Roll your own takes on a different meaning for Harvinder Singh Thiara – his Lifestyle Express is growing profits with a grassroots garden favourite, alongside other c-store staples. Steven Lambert reports

Harvinder Singh Thiara, better known as Marty to his customers, can certainly attest to the old adage ‘the grass is greener on the other side’.

Since moving his Lifestyle Express convenience store into another property 100 yards away from his old site, the retailer has been growing his sales and attracting passing trade with a number of unique products, including fresh rolls of turf.

Marty explains: “About 30 years ago, the site we’re on now used to be a busy garden centre. Soon after we moved here in September, we had a visit from the son of the man who used to run the centre.

 <figcaption>Discovering unusual products your customers want will do your reputation – and profits – wonders</figcaption>” width=”199″ height=”300″> Discovering unusual products your customers want will do your reputation – and profits – wonders</figure><p>“He told us he could supply us with some rolls of turf and see how they sold. We took a couple of pallets and put them out the front, and they took off.”</p><p>With his 1,200sq ft store located next to a dual carriageway and an abundance of affluent households with green fingers, Marty adds that the service is continuing to pay off six months down the line.</p><p>“At the height of summer we were able to sell 6,000 rolls a month. Even with the wet weather we’ve been having, I’ve just had an order for 100 rolls. We charge £1.50 for each one and make 50% commission. I can make as much on selling two rolls of turf as I can from selling a bottle of scotch.</p><p>“We also sell top soil and compost, and we’re quite well known for selling big sacks of potatoes as well.”</p><p>The positive response from shoppers has also encouraged Marty to set up his own landscaping company. He says: “One of the things that customers kept asking us is if we could lay the turf ourselves, so now we’re working with a professional landscaper and starting up in the next few weeks. We’re just about to get some big banners which we’ll use to promote the service to the public.”</p><p>With summer fast approaching, Marty says he is looking to take advantage by turning the outside of his shop into a “mini garden centre”.</p><p>“I’m in talks with a company who can supply us with fence panels and other garden accessories, and we’ll be sourcing bedding plants ourselves from another local company.</p><p>“If the weather is good and we do it properly, I think we can grow profits by up to 50%. And after that, we’ll be getting in Christmas trees for winter.”</p><p>[pull_quote_right]We also sell top soil and compost, and we’re quite well known for selling big sacks of potatoes as well[/pull_quote_right]</p><p>In addition, anyone looking to keep warm over winter or have a barbecue in summer can come down to the store to pick up their own gas canisters.</p><p>“It’s something we’ve done for a while and it’s a bit different,” says Marty. “With the weather being so mild, sales have dropped a bit, but when it was really cold about a year and a half ago they went up by around 30%.”</p><p>With double the floor space of his previous business, Marty has been able to add extra services such as the National Lottery and Hermes parcel deliveries to further attract a wide mix of regular and passing trade.</p><p>Meanwhile, he has been keeping an eye on local trends, which has also been paying off: “We have just had a new Indian restaurant open up close to us which is unlicensed, so we have had more people coming to us to buy beer and wine to take in.</p><p>“We’re now keeping plenty of our alcohol chilled and, while we’re not giving it away, we make sure we are reasonably priced.”</p><p>All of Marty’s efforts seem to have had an effect on the nearby Co-op store, which is currently being sold on to new owners.</p><p>“We have definitely seen a few new faces coming in and our turnover has gone up as well,” he says.  For the moment, it appears that everything is coming up roses.</p><p> </p><h2>Visit my store</h2><p><iframe style=