They say that you only learn by making mistakes. While there are certainly other ways of learning, mistake are nevertheless useful learning tools. No matter how experienced a retailer might be, there will always be decisions made that don’t work out for the best. Learning from those mistakes and being able to extract positives from errors in judgment can actually make those worthwhile. Some mistakes will have been made early in a career, others when circumstances changed or retailers tried to make them change.

“You’re always learning in retail,” says Nishi Patel, from Londis Bexley Park in Dartford, Kent. “It’s ever-evolving, especially with last year. We were learning on the spot as the country was learning. Things like the amount of people we had in the shop, mask-wearing, we had to change how we operated and it was a massive learning curve.”

If you can learn from your mistakes and view them as an opportunity to grow, then you can also reduce your fear of making mistakes, which can improve proactivity and confidence in what you’re doing. You can’t find out if an idea, a new line or a new store layout will work until you’ve actually tried it without the fear of it going wrong. Indeed, it could even be said that inaction because of fear of making a mistake is a mistake in its own right.

“I make mistakes every single day, but I’ve learned never to be afraid to be wrong, to be open to change and to listen to my staff,” says Bay Bashir, who runs multiple shops in the Teesside area. “There’s not one way to do things – a right or a wrong way – there are just better ways.”

“Don’t be afraid to fail,” saysHarj Dhasee, from Village Stores in Mickleton, Gloucestershire. “If it doesn’t work, move on. That’s the whole point of being an entrepreneur.”

Fine tune your service

The growth of Nishi Patel’s food-to-go offering in his Londis Bexley Park store in Dartford has been an exercise in fine tuning and making sure the processes are delicately balanced to service the right people at the right time. This enhancement has come about through repeat experience of customer preferences and tastes.

“A lot of my guys used to stop cooking at 4pm when the after-school rush was finished, but a lot of customers came in after work at 6:30pm, and there’d be no hot food. Now I make sure we have at least six French sticks left by the end of the day,” says Patel. As a result, Patel’s hotfood-to-go sales have climbed up to £5,000 a week.

This preparedness increases the risk of leftover hot food at closing time, so Patel has now partnered with waste app Too Good To Go, managing to match his increased sales with decreased wastage.

Listen to your team

Bay Bashir, who runs multiple shops in the Teesside area, views mistakes as a fundamental part of the retail journey, primarily through the involvement of staff.

“I ask my staff to earn their money in a better way by bringing more to the table,” he says. Consequently, any successes and failures are the team’s, rather than any one person’s.

“The only way I get that is if I involve them in every single thing in the shop and listen to them. They won’t always get things right but if you ask me a question and I cut you down every time, I’ll kill your confidence and you’ll think I take you for granted.”

Giving his staff the chance to make mistakes gives them the chance to learn and buy into Bay’s vision for his stores. “Give them opportunities to do things they’ve never done before. The quality you must have is learning
to change because we all do things wrong every day.”

Find out what your store is about

Every convenience store serves different demographics, meaning that some offers will fit perfectly with your customers and some won’t. The best way to find out what works is to try it out.

Harj Dhasee, from Village Stores in Mickleton, Gloucestershire, tried to make his store more of an on-trend impulse store with slush machines and takeaway food, but it educated him about his customers’ true desires.

“Our customers see us a food shop store, not an impulse store,” he says. “It’s driven by good-quality food and drink. You’ve got to have good quality offerings. “We’ve learned over the year that we’re not an ontrend
store and don’t need to make ourselves trendy. It works in some stores, but ours is an older demographic. “Every store is different. It’s about learning what your store is about and trying something.”

Do your due diligence

When Bobby Singh, from BB Nevison Superstore, Pontefract, Yorkshire, was doing a refit, he worried he had been too ambitious.

“I was thinking ‘have I done the right thing? Will I make the money back?’ I was doubting myself, but presentation and how your store looks are vital, and it worked out for the better. I was doubting myself in the short term, but I should have trusted my long-term instincts because I’d done my preparation.”

He recommends talking to other retailers, sharing mistakes and best practice to learn even more.

“That’s been a big help for me. When you see something that’s been tried and tested, it gives you that assurance to go for it.
“I’m learning all the time, which is important, because times are changing, and what’s trending now may not be trending tomorrow. If you’re standing still, you’re going backwards.”