Harj Dhasee, one of our seven expert retailer columnists, explains why non-food is an important step for convenience stores

January for us is really hectic because we’re busy setting ourselves up for the rest of the year. We look at all our data and go through the store line by line and tighten up all the areas that have become too busy.

I think this year there are two areas that will be really important for me; gifts and non-food. We’ve done a lot of chocolate, prosecco and flower offers for events like Valentine’s Day before, but what are we missing?

We’re now looking at where we can source perfume, teddies and gift packs. Before Christmas we had a display of gift products in front of the till to see if it worked and it did really well. Candles were flying out the door and it got a great response from shoppers.

Anything that we didn’t sell is going to be used to create a ‘his and hers’ shelf for Valentine’s Day. Because there’s no use-by date, everything we don’t sell we can always be saved until the next season rather than selling at a reduced rate.

Non-food doesn’t just mean gifts. We’ve had some phone accessories from Fifo in for about six months. You’d think everyone has a phone charger, but the number of people that come in looking for one is astounding.

We need to give our shoppers everything they need and stop them going elsewhere. I saw a retailer last year that bought some wooden boxes online and then sold boxed ales for Father’s Day. This is such a great idea and it’s easy to do. The products are already on your shelves, so you can upsell to your customers.

I don’t believe there’s anyone out there that does good quality gifts in convenience. The likes of Boots do it well, so why aren’t we picking up those additional sales? Gifts are a huge market that we miss out on. We get everyday shoppers in our store, so we have to offer them everything they need.