When customers told Vicky and Mandeep Singh they needed a good-quality fresh and chilled range in their local store, the brothers acted and expanded. With a 1,900sq ft business and a vast range of produce and services, their business is now a local destination. Alex Yau reports

A year ago, Vicky and Mandeep Singh’s Londis was regularly losing customers to Sainsbury’s and Asda, a 20-minute walk away.

The 800sq ft store was in need of modernisation, lacked a fridge and there was limited space to stock a full range of fresh and chilled goods, meaning locals couldn’t buy what they needed.

“We had got to the stage where we were this tiny store that didn’t sell everything locals wanted. They were telling us how frustrating it was having to go to Sainsbury’s or Asda to get high-quality produce,” says Vicky.

Growing customer demand for fresh produce spurred the brothers to take action, and last summer they invested more than £100,000 to buy the fish shop next door and increase floor space to 1,900sq ft.

A refit included the installation of large fridges and a huge expansion of the store’s fresh range, meaning fruit and vegetables now take up more than 25% of space – an increase from 10%.

The move has paid off, says Vicky, with annual turnover up by 20% and monthly sales of fruit and veg up from £1,000 to between £3,500 and £5,000.

The expanded fresh produce range is now one the biggest draws for residents, around 70% of whom are mothers, 20% are elderly and 10% work in the nearby business park.

“A lot of our customers are mothers who care about how food affects the health of their children,” says Vicky. “They don’t mind paying more if it’s beneficial. We’ve definitely seen an increase in turnover.”

To offer added value to customers shopping for fresh produce, Vicky and Mandeep have also increased the number of promotions they run on this range. Up to 40 deals now run weekly on fruit and veg, including two packets of fruit for £2.50 instead of £1.89 for a pack. 

A lot of our customers are mothers who care about how food affects the health of their children. They don’t mind paying more if it’s beneficial.

“All our fruit comes in colourful packaging. The Farm Fresh brand creates a positive image and the displays look more organised and eye-catching,” says Vicky.Professional-looking displays also play their part in attracting custom.

Vicky and Mandeep say the refit has helped them build on several other strengths in their business that also attract local customers.

Fresh produce isn’t the only quality offer. Fresh coffee has proved successful since a self-serve Costa Coffee machine was installed seven months ago, which generates an average of £700 per week.

A quarter of the store is also dedicated to freshly baked goods, while a hotdog machine and hot food to go section provide even more options for customers.

These areas have proved so popular that tills have been positioned to face the aisles so staff can keep an eye on availability and restock goods as soon as they sell out.

The store also has a post office counter, which similarly reinforces the idea of a quality offer in customers’ minds.   

“It’s the idea of offering good products again,” says Vicky. “People see the Costa name and trust it, the fresh food is an instant draw, and they see the post office and are happy to post their goods here because they trust us. They’re happy to pay a higher price.”

Community spirit also plays an important role in the business. The store serves a mix of shoppers from mainland Europe, Britain and Asia, so the brothers have recruited staff members whose families originate from the UK, Afghanistan and Romania to ensure the business gels with locals in a way others cannot. 

“The store is very multicultural and this goes well with the community,” says Vicky. “Our rivals aren’t as diverse and our communication with customers is very personal. Locals are able to associate themselves with us a lot more.”

With the refit complete and a quality offer established, the brothers are confident of their future.

“Stores in the area can’t really offer what we have and I believe nobody can really compete with us anymore.” 

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