“Be unique. Dare to be different,” says store owner Sudesh Patel, who took over Coulsdon Londis three years ago.
The shop marks a return to the industry for Sudesh, as his previous shop in Brixton burnt down in the 90s.
“Comparing the two shops I have owned, there’s a big difference. Back then, we were just a small newsagent in Brixton, but we were earning big,” he explains.
Although the business has changed, Sudesh says there are still opportunities in independent retailing and in order to run stores successfully, retailers must first of all be able to adapt to trends and be willing to do something that will make them stand out.
“We need to be proactive. We need to look at trends. This has really worked for us, especially during different seasons,” he says.
Sudesh says that being unique and trying out different ideas is the best way to make your store stand out and reap the rewards, especially during key seasonal events.
“People say don’t spend too much on your stock, but until you invest in your ideas, you don’t really know what works.”
Sudesh has improved his approach to seasonal offers and products. Mother’s Day, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Christmas are the big seasons that he capitalises on.
“Last Easter, we introduced huge chocolate Easter bunnies. These were worth £45 each and we sold all 10 of them in just two weeks.”
Similarly, for Mother’s Day, Sudesh works with a local florist to bring in bouquets of flowers, which his store quickly sold out of.
A major part of his strategy is focusing on how to compete with the multiples.
“I urge retailers to go into competitors and think of how you can compete and even go the extra mile in making your shop stand out even more.
Keeping up with growing events, like Pancake Day, will help to keep your store fresh. We have never sold so many pancake mixes before this year,” he says.
Sudesh says that maintaining high standards is important. This comes from all aspects, in terms of quality control, hygiene, customer service and making sure that there are no empty shelves.
“To maintain high standards, a system needs to be in place,” Sudesh explains, and says that this is the best way to gain customer confidence.
Staff training is an important as part of Sudesh’s system. This includes checking dates on products, checking the refrigerator temperature and having a cleaning schedule
Sudesh says that staying on track with these systems, and never deviating from them as a leader, is the way he makes sure that the rest of the team follows his example and heads towards success.