Alex Yau finds out how Nisa Local Virginia Quay has served the needs of two different customer bases to grow average basket spend by 40p

The Nisa Local in East London’s Virginia Quay has been an established part of the area for more than a decade, but it has had to adapt quickly during that time to cater for a changing customer base and increasing competition.

Formerly a Budgens, a switch to the Nisa fascia at the end of 2007 has given it more opportunity to offer a unique range of fresh produce, groceries and meat suited to the tastes of the families who have been living in the area for generations.

nisa-local-stat-1.jpg Store manager Siva Pandian has helped oversee the changes since he started working for the business. “I’ve really seen the store grow in my time here and the ability to adapt has been vital as we have faced increasing competition from a nearby Tesco Express and Asda over the years,” he says. 

“We decided to switch symbol groups because our previous agreement was restrictive and only allowed us to source 5% of our stock from other suppliers at the time.”

The freedom means the store now receives weekly deliveries from butchers and grocers who are based in Spitalfields Market in the centre of London. This unique product range has helped sales at the 5,000sq ft shop increase by 20% in the past year, while average basket spend per customer has grown from £7.50 to £7.90.

Siva says: “There are a lot of families living in the area, and us knowing the products they feed themselves and their children is important to them. Having products that are sourced nearby provides a major selling point for us.”

The past few years has also seen a busier customer base of young professionals move into the area. Based next to a major London Underground stop, Nisa Local Virginia Quay receives footfall from health-conscious gym fanatics as well as office workers rushing to their regular nine-to-five jobs in the centre of the capital.

“We added a Subway to the store in 2014 and, since then, we’ve increased our range further with a selection of protein bars, organic foods and the Co-op own-label range,” he says.

“The Subway has been really popular because it provides a brand that customers are already familiar with. There are construction sites nearby for new housing developments, and the Subway is very popular with the workmen from those sites.”

An expanded range of food to go and healthy products aren’t the only ways the forward-thinking store has managed to differentiate from nearby rivals, however. The introduction of a Bitcoin ATM machine, myHermes parcel station and Amazon Lockers outside the store caters to the time-conscious shopper who likes to use modern technology to help them complete their everyday tasks. 

A PayPoint terminal by the till also ensures the store offers the services of a traditional convenience store.

Uber Eats and Deliveroo were also introduced a year ago and have helped boost average sales further. Both online delivery services have enabled the store to serve customers living on the Isle of Dogs; an
affluent residential area a mile away, which was previously inaccessible.

“We were never able to serve these customers before without Uber Eats and Deliveroo. They’re more affluent and we find we can chase higher margins,” Siva says.

“The services just provide a convenient way for them to receive groceries without having to leave the house, so they don’t mind paying a bit more.”

Despite the introduction of these modern services, tried-and-tested customer service is at the core of what the store does, and this will remain its key focus in the years to come.  

“Providing good service is the most important aspect of the way I run the shop. I make sure all customers feel welcome and get what they need. These people come into the shop every day and keep us going,” he says.

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