The Independent Achievers Academy 2015 Top 100 retailers in the UK have just been announced, and Isabella Kellett’s Preston store is among the elite for the first time.

The facts
  • Spar Millwood Road
  • Location: Preston, Lancashire
  • Hours: 6am-10pm Monday-Sunday
  • Staff: 15 part-time
  • Size: 2,700sq ft
  • Trading started: October 1991
  • Style: The symbol group retailer is in a residential area of Preston, offering the essential services to compete with the three nearby supermarkets.

“We were surprised when we got the news, but it’s just something lovely to hear,” Isabella says.

The Kelletts understand the importance of celebration and events and try to make the most of the different seasons in store. To boost sales and capitalise on the  fact that the Rugby World Cup is being held in the UK this autumn, they have dedicated a quarter of their shop – and their entire alcohol section – to the event.

“Roy enjoys dressing up the store,” she says. “We’ll be bringing out the red and white soon!”

The store is adorned with rugby-themed bunting and promotional posters. But Isabella’s son, Roy, has organised the rugby section to include kegs for group gatherings and a dedicated ice box. He says he has also ordered rugby balls that will be hung from the ceiling.

“This isn’t all we do. You should see the shop at Halloween. The kids love it and people come to visit us to see how we’ve decorated the store,” Roy says.

The mother-and-son team festoon the shop by hanging large spiders and skeletons from the ceiling. They also use spray-on webs to decorate the till area. Halloween extends through to their product range with themed sweets, witch accessories, extravagant false eyelashes and nails all on sale.

“Halloween isn’t just for children anymore. There are a lot of adults who need to touch up their outfits before a party, so that’s who we’re also catering for,” Isabella explains.halloween

Spar’s new autumn season TV advert and sponsorship deal has also been welcomed by the retailers, who know it’s going to help sales. The “as seen on TV” products, such as Prosecco and olives, are well stocked to capitalise on the increased interest.

“It does make a visible difference to our store when they roll out a national campaign,” Roy adds.

The use of technology, regardless of whether its in head office or behind the till, is something Isabella has quickly had to get used to during her forty-something years in convenience.

“We didn’t have calculators when I started out,” she said. “The computers and other technology has come on in leaps and bounds.”

To help move them technologically forward they’ve sought advice from their wholesaler and will soon be launching a Facebook page. However, it’s EPoS that has made the greatest difference to the efficiency of their store.

“It’s become vital, I couldn’t imagine running our store without it,” Roy says. “It lets us know our bestsellers and shrinkage.”

The retailers have tried not to get lost in the online world, by focusing on basics and will hopefully open an in-store post office next year. They already offer Payzone, a free cash machine and myHermes to encourage footfall.

car parkBut their free parking seems to be the store’s golden ticket. Based in a Preston suburb, customers park their car at the store before going on long walks and then using the store to rehydrate or re-energise.

“The big boys drag in the shoppers through their strong promotions and sometimes we just can’t do that,” Roy argues.

“So we want our customers to realise that they come into our store because they genuinely need our services – so we’re catering for their needs not just their wants.”

Continue reading for top tips and a full gallery of the store