Last month, the ACS revealed that the average symbol group store invests £13,636 in its business each year. So, the RN team asked readers a simple question: how would you invest that money in your store today?

How I’d spend my £13,636

Sarj Patel 

Pasture Lane Stores, Loughborough, Leics

In rural Leicestershire, Sarj Patel runs a business that a mixture of locals and university students rely on – many for more than just a top-up shop every few days. How would he use this money to improve his offer?

The dream

If everything was already fixed and updated, I would bulk up on wines and spirits, especially gin – this is a trend I haven’t capitalised on yet – and offer promotions on it. I would also hire in more storage space for this range. 

Essential update

One area we need to concentrate on is our food-to-go offering. We have a coffee machine already, but I would like to bring in things such as fresh pastries, doughnuts and cakes. This is what will help us stand out from the competition. 

Appliances 

We recently had a refit where we added in new low ceiling lights, but if I had an additional £14,000 or so to spend on extras, I would refurbish the store front by adding a lick of paint and new signs and windows. 

Staffing

I think it is so important that staff get the correct training to do their job properly, so I would enrol all three of my staff into a programme that covers things such as EPoS systems, and food safety and hygiene. 

Investing in the latest trends

I would like to bring in a gluten-free aisle, as the trend is becoming more relevant to my shoppers. At the moment, we don’t have space for it, so I would need to create that space by moving things around.

How I’d spend my £13,636

Bay Bashir

Belle Vue Go Local, Middlesbrough

Bay Bashir runs three stores, including an award-winning convenience store that thrives even amid tough competition from supermarkets and discounters.

The Dream

There are some items where, if you overthink it, you’ll miss the opportunity, so if you’ve got the cash, it’s important to use it. Tango Ice Blast slush machines may cost £5,000, but they pay for themselves 10 times over. Special items like this are all about putting cash in the till.

Essential update

If you are thrifty, £13,636 will go a long way in keeping overall store standards high. It can be hard to measure the return on keeping flooring, shelving, outside work and other basics looking good, but it’s a must considering the level of competition stores now face.

Appliances

You have to look at the bigger picture, look at when they will begin to pay for themselves. There’s always a cheaper option at the point of purchase when it comes to refrigeration, but when you look at your bills, you’ll find it was worth paying that bit extra in the first place.

Staffing

I already give incentives out to my staff to make sure they are rewarded for good practice. I’d use the funds to give further cash incentives to staff. Running several stores, you can’t be everywhere at once, and rewarding staff helps to ensure standards are kept high.

Investing in the latest trends

I’d update my coffee machine. In one store I replaced my Nescafé machine with a Rijo machine and I’ve gone from four cups per day to 35, even though the price has also increased by 30p. With investing in trends such as coffee, it’s all about brand, in-store placement and quality.

How I’d spend my £13,636

Ray Monelle

Everyday (Orchard News), Western-super-Mare

In Ray Monelle’s seaside store, improving knowledge about the latest retailing methods – for him and his staff – seems to take centre stage alongside the ambition to make fresh food to go in-store.  

The dream

I would bring in handmade sandwiches. We’d also look for other new products and innovation, and explore ways to increase turnover and footfall in-store. We’d look to learn about more efficient ways to handle stock.

Essential update

We’ve already done it. We recently had a refit and upturned the store, so we refitted the lighting, flooring and practically redesigned the entire shop floor. We had it all done in one go. We’re still limited on space, however.

Appliances

We had a total new security system installed that included a new alarm, improved CCTV and had new fridges installed. This was all part of the essential appliance work. 

Staffing

We currently have two members of staff, so with an extra £13,636, I would recruit a couple more members of part-time staff for extra cover. This would free up some of my time to look into how else we can develop the business.

Investing in the latest trends

If I was given money to invest in a trend, I would increase my food-to-go offering and bring in things like a hot counter – this is an area in retail that is constantly growing. If I had the room, I’d also like to bring in more gluten-free lines.

How I’d spend my £13,636

Josh Taylor 

Tywardreath Village Shop, Cornwall

The Cornish store already runs as a community-focused enterprise, but these extra funds could help employ a disabled member of staff or improve the store’s tech resources.

The dream

I think we would look at introducing new facilities to test out in the shop. Our coffee machine was a good little investment, so we would use the money to test some new services like a hot food counter.

Essential updates

The shape of our store is quite awkward, so we would look to leverage that money to build more stock space. We would probably use some of the money to give the front of the store a new look.

Appliances

We could definitely update our fridge and freezer to a more efficient, environmentally-friendly model and we would probably look at some of the gadgets that are available that do stock take for you.

Staffing

This would enable us to employ someone else and, if the money wasn’t a one-off, we could employ those in the community who might not be able to get employment due to disabilities, for example. 

Investing in the latest trends

We are already doing quite a lot with technology and have an app and a website updated. It would be good to move the cash machine outside because, at the moment, it is in store so customers can’t use it after 6pm. 

How I’d spend my £13,636

Paul Patel 

WHSmith Local Dibden Purlieu, Hampshire

Making sure Paul Patel’s local community is fully aware of the products he offers would be the big priority when it comes to making a big investment in his store.

The dream

I think I would spend the money largely on marketing as you can never do enough. I would like to be active on social media, compose a website, print more leaflets and distribute them more widely and even advertise on the radio. 

Essential updates

If we had extra money, we could purchase in bulk and get better deals on promotional stock. Then we could display in-store marketing to promote it. We could also reduce our overheads so there would be less pressure on cash flow.

Appliances

We could do with a new, more energy-efficient chiller. I would also like to improve access to the shop and replace our manual doors with sliding doors – so there is easier access for people with scooters or less mobility.

Staffing

Small businesses tend to focus on day-to-day operations and forget this side. Very few invest enough in training, so I would like to help staff broaden their skills and perhaps organise a day trip for our newspaper boys.

Investing in the latest trends

As I say, we could do much more with social media and spend the money on doing a course or get help to make a website. We’d engage a professional marketing company that offers these services.

How I’d spend my £13,636

Robert Kirkwood

The Corner Shop Convenience Store(Premier Express), Crossgates, Fife

Robert Kirkwood owns two stores, but in his first store he would love to be able to give his staff a loyalty bonus and offer food to go.

The dream

I would like to get nice new tiled flooring because, at the moment, we have plastic tiles that can leak. And then I would also like to spend the money on some proper shelving for the store room.

Essential updates

Our computer system is running slowly at the moment, so it would be good to have an updated one. At the moment we have to make do with what we have got and it does affect some of our processes. 

Appliances

The store is only three years old, so we are mostly all good with our appliances. Maybe a new EPoS system would be helpful – stores seem to be using more and more data in their businesses now. 

Staffing

It would be great to give some kind of bonus for loyalty to our staff, if we had the opportunity. The budget announced that the minimum wage will increase again, so it would be good to know we could afford these rises.  

Investing in the latest trends

If I had the room, I would like to spend some money on food to go in this store and set up a bakery area. Other than that, we have Zapper, and EPoS, so I think we are okay.