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Having a process for retailing age-restricted products such as cigarettes and alcohol is a key requirement for retailing. Ravi Kaushal’s Premier Burlington News is no exception because one slip in selling a packet of cigarettes or a couple of cans of beer to a child could strip him of his post office counter, as well as the respect of his well-to-do customer base.
The store is over the road from the local rail station and is the closest convenience store to a 1,200-pupil secondary school in London’s Chiswick, home to TV’s Ant and Dec and a host of well-off professionals. One of Ravi’s regulars is also a judge at the Old Bailey. As a result, Ravi’s range goes all the way from everyday wines and beers to at least half a dozen different Champagne labels and expensive spirits.
His cigarettes are displayed in a state-of- the-art electronic gantry sourced through British American Tobacco with packs protected behind glass for extra security, adding to the impression of a modern, well-run business where the owner cares about his image in the community. The Federation of Wholesale Distributors is keen to help retailers trade in a safe and legal environment. Chief executive James Bielby, along with Diageo senior category development manager James Hughes, dropped into the store to discuss matters with Ravi and trade tips for responsible retailing.
Buy stock from reputable sources. You stay within the law and you offer a quality product.
CCTV cameras act as a deterrent as well as crime recorders.
Link up with other local businesses and your local police and PCOS.
1 Ensure all staff are properly trained on age-restricted products, and all relevant policies and procedures
Ravi’s all-student workforce are trained on the job. He makes sure he is present for the first few days they are employed to show them the ropes, and there is a till alarm to prompt them to “Challenge 25”. There are prominent signs on shelves and behind the counter to explain this to customers.
Staff only accept passports or driving licence as proof of identity. He often encounters kids with fake IDs sourced from the internet, some of which look fairly convincing, so by sticking to his rules he can’t be outfoxed by fakes.
“This is like a village shop and I would say I know 90% of my customers, so I mostly know who is old enough and who isn’t. By now most of the kids know I won’t serve them cigarettes or beer,” he says.
Mr Bielby says what Ravi is doing is good up to a point, but he needs to improve his processes. “Having a refusals register near the till is vital,” he says. “He should also accept a PASS-accredited card such as CitizenCard, which is the industry standard proof of ID, and contains a hologram so it is impossible to counterfeit.
“A lot of people don’t have driving licences, and you really do need some other proof to be accepted. How about displaying all three accepted proofs on a poster behind the counter?”
2 Take adequate measures to ensure the safety of your staff and store
After the first of two raids on his post office a few years ago, Ravi installed a battery of CCTV cameras that would be the envy of the Bank of England.
There are 24 cameras keeping watch over the store and its immediate vicinity. The outdoor cameras have driven away troublesome youths, while inside they are trained on the chiller cabinet, for instance, to prevent casual shoplifting.
“The police caught the second lot of robbers,” says Ravi. “The pictures from the CCTV were so sharp the police were able to pick them up without recourse to an identity parade. All the raiders failed to do was smile for the camera.”
Elsewhere there are two grilles between the rear of the store and the post office counter, designed to slow down criminals and give staff enough time to press a panic button to the police.
“It is important to create a good relationship with the local police,” says Ravi, who keeps an eye on men who come into the store asking for childrens’ travel cards, for instance, who he believes could be casing the shop for a future raid.
3 Source products responsibly
As a Premier store, Burlington News buys from Booker’s depot in Acton, West London.
Mr Bielby says: “Booker’s prices are very competitive and anyone selling at below those prices who isn’t a member of the FWD should be treated with caution.”
Mr Hughes adds: “If you buy from an FWD member, you know you are not dealing with the grey market.”
Ravi says: “It would be easy to be the dodgy guy, but it wouldn’t do me any good. I am expected to behave responsibly and have the best stock. I don’t stock super-strength lagers or white ciders because I don’t need that sort of trade. I’m so careful about sourcing that I asked the managing director of Marlboro for ID when he visited.”
4 Work within your community to help crime prevention
“We have an open door policy with the local police,” says Ravi. “I’m on the Safer Neighbourhood Committee.
“It’s wise to link up with other businesses and learn what’s going on. In a way, our exterior cameras help keep the immediate area secure for local residents.”