The Independent Achievers Academy inspired High Wycombe retailer Raaj Chandarana to join the family retail business and engaging with the Academy’s toolkit of ideas helped him to grow sales by £2,000 a week, he told fellow retailers and their suppliers at the 2014 Academy launch in London this week.

“I caught the bug at the Independent Retail Show, I was inspired to visit retailers like Roli Ranger and Rav Garcha (both former IAA winners) and the Academy has made the difference between me being a shopkeeper and a businessman,” Mr Chandarana said.

“Working with suppliers, other retailers and the IAA, I have grown sales by £2,000 a week in the past six months without spending a penny.”

Taking over his father’s award winning shop, Mr Chandarana built on its community focus with special events and the biggest Facebook page in the High Wycombe area to grow footfall. At the same time, he learned how to upsell from the till and to look for that extra 10p revenue everywhere.

The audience included many of the UK’s top brands who promote the IAA and they also heard from Cardiff retailer Mark Dudden on the difference the Academy had made to his shop.

“Specialisation is something small retailers can capitalise on. It is what the customers are looking for and it is what the big supermarkets cannot do,” said Mr Dudden.

Faced with nine multiple competitors within a short walk of his store, Mr Dudden explained how he gave the public choice with a 1,600 range of magazines. The IAA advice, which is made available through the 12 Steps to Bigger Profits workbook and on the IAA web page, gave him a checklist to do a better job for shoppers.

“The list of Academy principles enabled me to approach my shop with a different set of eyes and to make improvements,” said Mr Dudden.

Further encouragement for independent retailers to improve is provided by the Academy in Action visits that are co-ordinated by event producer Caroline Cronin.

“The retailers who take part in the Academy have grown their businesses, their confidence and their profits,” Ms Cronin said.

The visits are the linchpin of the IAA, she explained, because they showed how best practice worked on the floor of the store. This year, 12 shops around the UK will take part in the two phase Academy visit process.

“The Academy is a great channel for ideas. We have some brilliant companies that work with us to share ideas that will help retailers better serve customers and grow their sales and profits,” said Nick Shanagher, managing director, Newtrade. “We want to challenge as many independent retailers as possible to task themselves to improve. The market opportunity is out there.

Retailers wanting to join the Academy or receive their free copy of the 12 Steps to Bigger Profits workbook should visit betterretailing.com/IAA/take-part.