The Londis store in Harefield, Middlesex, is a community store in the truest sense of the word. The business has been trading for 17 years and owner Atul Sodha and his team have built up a strong rapport with local customers.
The store started life as a CTN and has evolved into a convenience store over the years. A Londis Genesis refit and extension more than a year ago has increased selling space from 600sq ft to 640sq ft by knocking through part of the stockroom to create a new off licence area.
"By adding just 40sq ft, average customer spend has increased from £4.10 to £4.90, and sales are now about £15,000 a week, up from £8,000," says Atul. "We're trying to give the multiples' range, to some extent, but also give the service."
Chilled is a growing category for Atul's store and sales of fresh and chilled foods are now about £1,300 to £1,400 per week. "We're not totally to Londis planogram; we like to order lots of weird and wonderful stuff," adds Atul. So prepacked produce and Londis ready meals sit alongside the likes of Polish sausages and Gü premium chocolate puddings.
Atul's store, which is located just up the road from Musgrave Budgens Londis headquarters and trades under the name Peverills, has become a bit of a guinea pig for Londis. During the refit more than a year ago, the Londis Laser epos system was installed and Atul is now trialling a new Windows package for the group.
Atul and his team -manager Karen, Rosemary and Louise - kept Stuart Burns, customer marketing manager for convenience and impulse at Heinz, busy as he rolled up his sleeves and got stuck into finding out the secrets of running a successful c-store.
"There's a lot more to it than meets the eye," says Stuart, after a hard day's work. "It's great I got the opportunity to do it on a delivery day - it's been quite insightful. I was really interested to learn about the new system that Atul is implementing, which is so sophisticated in what it can do. And a lot of thought goes into customer flow, basic hygiene standards, cleanliness and lighting.
"There's a real team spirit here - that's part of why I've enjoyed myself so much. The staff are incredibly friendly and have a close rapport with their loyal customers," adds Stuart. "Atul is lucky that he has a committed, happy and relatively large team of staff so he can spend time out of the store, working with other retailers, which gives him a better insight into how to run a better store."
Stuart was also able to experience first-hand the level of work involved in making sure the shop looks as good as it can. "When you replenish a line, whatever the case configuration is, it doesn't fit the shelf size," he says. "You don't really think about that when you are a supplier. By being on the shop floor I've picked up on the small things that can be very irritating."
Stuart admits that c-stores owners face a dilemma when it comes to core grocery items. "Without them, you're not a true convenience store, but the rate of sale and cash value is not as high as categories like beers, wines and spirits," he says. "I'm going to look much more closely into ways in which I can make grocery products more appealing to c-stores and give retailers like Atul what they want -which is the right products, in the right format, with the right promotional activity. For example, we've talked about seasonal activity based around ketchup and salad cream."
The Back to the Shop Floor experience has clearly been beneficial to both parties and Stuart and Atul had the opportunity to discuss how future Heinz promotions could work best. "When grocery products are more visible, we see large sales spikes," says Stuart.
"If we can give Atul the merchandising tools and provide a team to take the grief out of moving things around the store, then seasonal promotions are something he says he would consider."