After years of running stores for big-name chains, Mosi Patel left a managerial role at PC World to fulfil his ambition of owning his own store.
“When I bought the store, I didn’t want to change too much,” he says. “But trends were changing, and we couldn’t grow anymore without adapting.”
Things reached a tipping point for Mosi last year, prompting him to make some big decisions.
“Margins were more challenging than ever before, and the threat of the national living wage was looming,” he explains. “So we ploughed into expanding – but rather than extending what was there, we knocked the building down and rebuilt it.”
Location: Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester
Hours: 7am-10pm Mon-Sat, 8am-10pm Sun
Staff: Six, plus two on standby. All employees live locally
Size: 2,100sq ft
Trading since: August 2006: the new store opened 10 years later to the day
Style: A large community store serving a low-income area, facing increasing competition from discounters
On top of a complete rebuild, Mosi decided to change symbol group – turning the eight-week plan into 16 weeks. However, the eventual switch from Premier to Family Shopper helped him adapt to a key trend.
“Popularity shifted from unbranded products towards big-name brands,” he says. “All of our stock with Premier was Happy Shopper, so it felt like we were going backwards.”
When an Asda superstore opened nearby, Mosi lost many of his brand-hungry customers; but his new brand offering has remedied that.
“We also have a lot of £1 branded lines now, and we’re adding three sections dedicated to them,” he says. “The days are gone where you can charge over the odds just for convenience.”
Since reopening, Mosi has knocked 40% off of his prices – including brands. Bestsellers now include £1 multipacks of flavoured Volvic.
“We can only keep prices low if people spend, so we’re always looking at ways to keep up with trends,” he says. “Unhappy customers tend to stigmatise all convenience stores as the same.”
For now, Mosi is certain that the changes he has made are encouraging shoppers to return.
“We needed to win back the locals,” he says. “When they came here as a last resort, they’d only buy cigarettes or a couple of items. Now they come for the shopper experience, and basket spend has gone up.”
Mosi also recognises that becoming the locals’ first choice is about more than bargains.
When the store grew, he took on more staff members, making an effort to hire people who lived locally.
“It’s made a real difference – people actually engage with the new staff,” he says. “Hopefully it makes a difference to security too, because the shoppers know everyone who works here.”
As well as contributing to school sponsorships, Mosi runs a food bank, which he publicises on the store’s Facebook page.
“One of the locals told me that the way we use the page shows we care, because we don’t just use it for advertising,” he says. “We use our Facebook page to really engage with the community; we comment on their posts and wish them happy birthdays, and we run competitions to get them to engage with us too.”