When it comes to the profitability of their Wady & Brett Londis store, Vin Patel and his family have learned that it’s okay to take one step backwards if it will help you to take a big leap forward. Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski reports 

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Look at your priorities, look at your store, and if you want to have more time – for your family, to work on your business – then take a look at the bottom line, too. Is it worth losing profit to employ extra staff?”

This is the big lesson that Vin Patel and his family have learned in their three decades in the retail trade, and its embodiment is the 975sq ft Wady & Brett Londis store he operates in the Kentish village of Charing. 

“My father started off operating CTNs, first in Nottingham and then in north London and Dalston, but we ended up operating a 5,000sq ft store in Orpington, south London – first with Costcutter and then with Nisa,” says Vin. 

The family relied on little help and worked long hours and finally reached the point where they wanted to put their standard of life first. 

“You’ve got to work out what you want to achieve. We started looking for a new business and this time our priorities were finding a better area and finding business with a good turnover,” Vin says. 

They eventually found the Wady & Brett Londis, a small store with strong turnover and experienced, existing staff who would be able to take much of the burden from the Patel family. 

That was 15 years ago, and the three members of the Patel family – Vin, wife Lata and Vin’s father, Ramesh – have since created a successful business and formed
a strong bond with the community. 

“We have a lot of retail experience – we’re friendly, not shy – so when we started trading we soon got to know people. We got involved with the local Christmas lights, the scouts, the girl guides,” Vin says.

Yet, he also admits that his business, and the world around it, has changed “dramatically” since then. In fact, while the beginning of the Patel’s story at the business was about being new in town, the business is now being transformed by the village’s latest new arrivals: young families moving into the new estates being built.  

Just as the Patels worked hard to ensure they were welcomed to the community, the family’s mission is now to serve these new arrivals’ every need.  

“We’ve got more young people coming into the store and they’re looking for healthier options. We’re stocking lactose-free Koko coconut milk, the Epicure range of grocery products – it all started with us stocking the Warburtons’ gluten-free range and now our small section of vegan and gluten-free products make us £200 per week. It’s something we’re looking to expand soon,” he says. 

We have a lot of retail experience – we’re friendly, not shy – and we soon got to know people

The good news is that locals are already showing their commitment to the store, requesting that Vin stocks products which aren’t in his range: “We had a customer approach us very recently and ask us to stock the Nespresso coffee capsules and I’m now working hard on finding a supplier for them,” he says. 

These new products – alongside a long-standing range of premium wines (Chateauneuf-Du-Pape and champagnes are regular top sellers), craft beer and fresh produce – provide vital high margins for the store. Yet, the village and the new developments also include affordable housing and this is also reflected in the store’s product mix.

“We work with a good, better, best strategy and have a section dedicated to £1 lines,” says Vin. Working with his symbol group, Londis, has helped ensure the store has offered value and promotions, he adds. 

Alongside all of this, however, Vin has been able to take a step back from the day-to-day running of the store which had dominated so much of his early business experience. So, is he putting his feet up? Not at all, Vin says.

Inside my store

  • The Patel family took on the Kent store after running a larger shop in London
  • Vin Patel has always been quick to get involved in local events and groups

  • The changing tastes and demographics of the area have altered the range Vin feels he needs to offer

  • The Patels have been able to rely on experienced staff to help operate their business over the years

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