Some simple re-merchandising and a whole lot of experience have helped Mahesh Shah and his brother Batuk increase turnover at their Nisa-supplied Milco store at Ravensthorpe in Dewsbury, South Yorkshire, by 10% over the past year. The impressive growth has earned them £200 as the neighbourhood winner of our Growing with Warburtons competition.
Merchandising the store with shoppers' needs in mind and knowing when to implement supplier planograms have given trade the massive boost. "We've managed to increase turnover through re-merchandising by customer needs as well as using planograms and our own experience, which is often the best guide we have."
Indeed, that retail experience spans some 30 years. "We've been in the business since 1973 and owned quite a few stores at one point," explains Mahesh. At one time, the Shah brothers had 10 c-stores, but now they operate only the Ravens-thorpe Milco as well as running a distribution company and a mobile phone top-up terminal business.
"It got too much for just the two of us to run 10 stores - computer technology was not like it is now - but I do regret selling them off because we could control them all from one place now. But having just one store has given us the opportunity to do something different."
The 2,600sq ft store used to be 1,200sq ft until Mahesh and Batuk bought the entire building and extended in 1991. They're now focusing on fast-moving convenience products. "Grocery is really dying and when you get into fresh foods you have the issue of staffing, so we're concentrating on tobacco, beers, wines and spirits, confectionery, frozen food, bakery and dairy. We're looking at the product range all the time and it's important to keep customers aware of our offer. We're constantly looking at our reports to see what's doing well and not so well - some lines we just discontinue."
Seasonal lines are big profit earner for Mahesh. "We concentrate a lot on non-food seasonal lines - there's no other shops around here that specialise in that so we have different displays for different occasions. Valentine's Day and Mother's Day are the best for us. Teddy bears on Mother's Day were very, very popular. People will spend up to about £25.
"Because of the competition coming into the market we have to look at other things," adds Mahesh. "Our margin has gone up by 2% since we introduced lines for special occasions. Non-food products have margins of about 35-40%, which makes up for the low margins from some other categories."
The store also plays an active part in the community as it sponsors the local football team and contributes prizes for various events. "It's more important than ever to support the community with all the competition in the market," says Mahesh.
The help goes a step further than raffle prizes, though. "A lot of people come to us for advice on things like immigration because we've been here so long. I also help people with their mobile phones. We used to sell prepay mobile phones and people still come to me for help. They tell their friends that we're helpful and they come into the shop, too."
Going the extra mile for his customers is something Mahesh is more than willing to do. "A lady came in and couldn't get her mobile working - it turned out she had bought the wrong voucher for her network so I said I would sell it for her and swap it for the right one. She was very happy and now buys all her top-up vouchers here."