By introducing products that reflect his customers’ changing demands – such as slush drinks and Polish bread – and taking a ‘less is more’ approach to ranging Jimmy Patel has kept his business relevant and profitable. Charlie Faulkner reports

Despite having owned his store for 20 years, changes made in the past 12 months that have sparked a 50% sales increase have confirmed Jimmy Patel’s belief that constant new ideas are vital for a prosperous business.

Sheeta PatelJimmy and Sheeta Patel’s 600sq ft Jimmy’s Store is located on a main road, a short bus ride from Northampton town centre, with Chinese and pizza takeaways as its neighbours.

“I basically grew up in a convenience shop and, when I was old enough to help mum and dad, I did,” says Jimmy, who also owns a second, nearby Premier.

“I was a postmaster and worked alongside my uncle, Ralph Patel, for five years in his store. When Sheeta and I bought this one, we started with £20,000 and borrowed money from friends and family and the bank. We’ve never looked back.”

Central to the business’s success has been Jimmy’s understanding that a strong convenience store changes with the times.

When he saw an opportunity to cater to local Polish customers, for example, he leapt at the chance to introduce a range of dry items, Polish beer and his biggest seller in this section – Polish bread.

“We get through 20 fresh loaves a day,” he says. “We could probably get a better price on our milk but it’s our milkman who delivers the bread and it’s worth paying that bit extra for.”

Jimmy’s Store is now renowned as a hot spot for Polish customers, this category accounts for up to £300 of his weekly turnover.

Another popular addition, come rain or shine, is his slush machine.

“It’s brilliant. We’ve had it for about 18 months. A small cup costs us 24p and we sell them for £1. In the winter, we still sell around 40 cups a week and in the summer, you’re talking more like 200,” he says.

We’ve now got a smaller range but it’s working for us and our customers

Most recently, Booker analysed his EPoS data and told him he could boost sales by cutting back his range. While Jimmy admits he was sceptical at first, he agreed to work with the symbol group to adopt the latest new idea in his business: a ‘less is more’ approach focusing on essential groceries and delivering value to customers.

“We used to have one facing per item, but we’ve taken out 400 lines from around the store. We no longer have several brands of a similar product and basic bestsellers like tinned tomatoes now have three facings,” he says.

“We’ve de-cluttered the shop, it’s easier to manage and it’s easier for the customers to navigate their way through the products.

“We’ve seen an increase in Euro Shopper sales, average basket spend is same as before cutting lines and our total sales are up 50% as a result.”

Another profitable decision has been to begin pricing essential items such as milk, bread, eggs, sugar and bacon at £1.

Jimmy Patel“We were only getting through two boxes of eggs a week until then. Now we get through seven or eight. That’s an increase of £70 a month,” says Jimmy.

Meanwhile, Jimmy says making the move from chest freezers to upright units is “the best thing we ever did” after the change prompted another sales boost.

“I was a bit pessimistic about them initially, but we’ve seen a 30% sales uplift,” he says. “Again, we’ve now got a smaller range but it’s working for us and our customers.”

Jimmy now has other plans up his sleeve, the first being to introduce a dedicated gluten-free area.

“We can get a 30-40% margin on those products because people are willing to pay more for specialist items,” he says.

He also hopes to refit Jimmy’s Store and redesign its layout to bring it up to the standard of his other Premier.

“I’m really excited about what the future holds and the ideas I’m exploring to implement in my stores.”

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