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Responsible for 20% of his store’s trade and bringing in £1,000 a week in business, working with local suppliers has really paid off for Rahul Odedra and Upton St Leonards Post Office.
The store’s locally-sourced products include meat, eggs, milk and bakery items. “You won’t find these products in any other convenience stores,” he says.
The meat comes from a farm shop in the village. “They supply us with fresh meat three times a week to sell in the shop,” explains Rahul.
Meanwhile, a local farm provides the shop with eggs and a local bakery delivers fresh bread three times a week. “The fresh bread in particular is really popular with our customers,” he says.
Rahul knows the key to success is giving customers the products they want at a good price. One of his standout lines is a range of low-sugar and sugar-free biscuits.
“People can’t find these biscuits in supermarkets, so they’re very popular. Usually, sugar-free and gluten-free products are more expensive, but these are the same price as other biscuits,” he explains.
Newspapers are another important category for his store, the most popular titles being the Mail, Times and Telegraph.
He operates a paper delivery service for around 100 customers in the area. Although the service is generally straightforward to organise, getting reliable newspaper deliverers is crucial.
“Here, the newspaper deliverers are really good. They’re always on time and they give a good service to customers. When recruiting them, you have to give them a chance, to see how they do. You also have to explain to them from the start that the job requires commitment. It’s not hard work, but they need to be reliable and on time, even if it’s raining or snowing,” he says.
Top tips from Upton St Leonards Post Office
Speak to your customers
“I’ll tell them about the other things we sell in the store, and they’re often surprised at the ranges we have,” says Rahul. “If you don’t speak to your customers, they just walk out the door.”
Look for local opportunities
“We stock a lot of things from farm shops that people don’t expect to see in their local stores. These products are always very popular,” Rahul explains.
Find out what your customers need
“A lot of our customers are retired people. They’d like to be able to come in every day to buy their newspapers, but they can’t. That’s why we tell them about our newspaper delivery service – it really helps them.”
Rahul’s store contains the village’s only post office. Although it’s a great footfall driver, his challenge is to make sure post office customers also buy other products from his store. He finds the best way to do this is by talking to his customers, telling them what is available, and asking them what they’d like to see stocked.
For example, customers told Rahul they’d like to see an increase in his wine range, which led to a big success recently with Laithwaite’s wines.
“Laithwaite’s has a warehouse near our shop, so I went there and asked if they’d like to supply our store. They agreed,” he says. “You can usually only find them in restaurants. One of my customers told me that a glass of some of these wines would cost £5 in a restaurant, but we can sell it for £8 a bottle.”
Through talking to his customers, he has also learnt lessons about the category that have improved his service even more. “Sometimes, customers will talk to me about the wine they’re buying. I listen to them, and I can share that information with another customer when they’re asking me for a wine recommendation. Communication is vital.”