This year’s Independent Achievers Academy launched last week at a store that optimises the retail principles that underpin the programme.

Charlie Faulkner and Chris Gamm joined retailers on a study tour around the business to find out what they learned.

Siva ThievanayaganLocated on a residential street in Peterborough sits the bright and welcoming Nisa Local Fletton – the venue for the launch of this year’s IAA retail study day.

Food to go and fresh are the main focus across all five of owner Siva Thievanayagan’s Nisa shops, but when this 3,000sq ft store was due a major refit he decided to take things one step further, opening a bakery.

“Our bakery has a £6,000 turnover,” says Siva. “We bake fresh Cuisine de France pastries, we serve breakfasts, pizzas, homemade sandwiches and have a deli which offers the option for customers to create their own lunch,” he explains.

Despite the premium feel of the store – products such as San Pellegrino Pomegranate & Orange sit next to core staples – he is committed to keeping prices low.

“I like to see something different available in shops so I want to offer my customers something unique too,” he says. “But it’s not an affluent area so prices need to meet the needs of my customers.”

I like to see something different available in shops so I want to offer my customers something unique too

Siva has introduced many elements that would be more commonly found in stores serving a more affluent demographic, but priced them at an affordable level for his customers. Freshly-made sandwiches are priced at £2.60 each, with freshly made smoothies for £2.20.

“I make 50% margins on my sandwiches so why would I charge more?”

As the IAA’s study day venue, attendees take part in a tour where they’re able to see the hard work that’s gone behind the shop’s new look.

Varied ceiling heights around the store, for example, help open up different areas, while some creative use of coloured lighting emphasises specific products – pink-tinted lighting, attendees discover, is more flattering for raw chicken than harsh white.

Elsewhere, Siva has used bespoke display units to help his products sell: “We try to make the shelves look more interesting by using things like wicker baskets and wooden crates to display fruit and vegetables.”

Finding space for specialist brands in categories such as alcohol – US beer Blue Moon has found popularity – is one way Siva engages his customers, but catering for their specific needs also helps.

“We have big Polish and Italian communities in Peterborough so it’s important to cater for them,” says Siva, who turns over £1,000 a week on both areas.

But as always, it’s the hard numbers which tell the retailers on the tour the full story: “We’ve grown turnover 15% to £48,000 a week since the refit, but my ambition is to get to £65,000.”

Find out what the retailers on the tour learned on the day here.