In just a year, Amish Shingadia’s business-savvy research and investment has transformed ‘Sussex’s Worst Shop’ into the Independent Achiever’s Academy’s Best Shop of 2016.

Amish and his brother Alpesh took over the store in mid-2015, and after trading for six months made the decision to invest in a shop refit.

“We changed the entire layout,” Amish says. “There was a whole part of the shop that was never used, but now people have to walk through 80% of the shop to get to the checkout. It was expensive, but worth it – it’s changed the way the shop is run.”

Location: Horsham, Sussex

Hours: 7am-9pm every day

Staff: 10; each has a contract of at least 25 hours a week

Size: 1,800sq ft

Trading since: May 2015

Style: A community hub, with competition from Co-op, Tesco and Sainsbury’s

The refit is one of many changes Amish made that contributed to the shop winning three awards at the IAA Gala Dinner earlier this month.

“Before the refit, we collected a lot of customer feedback and  researched the competition. We came up with a plan to exploit the gaps in the market,” he says.

“People wanted a community shop, which is something the multiples can’t offer.”

In response, Amish swiftly sponsored a local fête attended by 600 people every year, and placed benches outside the store for the summer. The shop also raises money for several local charities.

“We try to do as much as we can to help the community,” says Amish. “It establishes relationships which, in turn, drive a sense of loyalty. Last year we received 30 Christmas cards from customers, and they do things like bake us cakes and invite us to their houses for barbecues.”

Every week, Amish challenges himself and his employees to learn the names of three customers. “It creates a great atmosphere,” he says. “Customers you don’t know see the relationship you have and want to be a part of it.”

Amish’s customer research also led to him introducing a post office, expanding fresh & chilled and offering a wide food-to-go range – successful ventures that won him the IAA’s effective ranging category.

Their food to go has filled a gap in the market, offering shoppers high-quality solutions at low prices. These include meal deals that allow the flexibility of combining products from different brands, including Londis’ sandwiches, Costa Coffee and branded soft drinks. For the thriving morning trade, Amish offers Costa coffees and a freshly-baked breakfast pastry for £2.89, which he will soon combine with a Costa loyalty scheme.

“At the moment in our area, you can’t get food to go anywhere except the nearby forecourt, but it’s expensive,” he says. “We’ve got Rollover hot dogs, which we sell for £2.60 with a can of soft drink.”

Another category Amish’s store won at the IAA was marketing to customers, an area he has invested in heavily.

“About two years ago the store was named the worst shop in Sussex,” he says. “The owners had lost interest – the shelves were empty and the stock was out of date. It’s been a real challenge dealing with the pre-conceptions that stemmed from that.”

Working to become the heart of his community and taking time to research what customers want – and supplying it – has proven to customers that the store has truly turned over a new leaf. He continues to let people know about the store with leaflet drops, and has plans to invest in social media.

“Now that we’ve been named the IAA’s Overall Best Shop, we’re going to do as much as we possibly can to market it locally,” Amish adds.

“It can also highlight to staff members and potential recruits that this is a great place to work. We give our staff a specific area to look after, so they’re all over the moon at the wins.”