Store: Butt’s News, Food and Wines (Today’s)
Location: Tilehurst, Reading

Business partners Kuldip Singh Dhariwal (pictured right), Baba Butt and his brother Hamayoon (pictured left) completed a refit of their Tilehurst store four months ago. It has been transformed from a 400sq ft video shop-come-off-licence to a full convenience outlet measuring 2,000sq ft.

The partners acquired the store three years ago, but were waiting for an expansion opportunity before embarking on any major work. Taking over the lease of a neighbouring bathroom and kitchen store when it closed last year gave them the opportunity to combine the two units and just the reason to revamp.

Kuldip didn’t see the tough economic situation as a reason to hold back on investing, and financing the project was fairly straightforward as the group already had a significant amount of capital accumulated from the other five stores they own. “We are fortunate we have other shops as well, so we were able to self-finance the expansion,” says Kuldip.

The way it was

Before the refit the store’s aisles measured a meagre 75cm, so any more than two customers per aisle led to overcrowding. The aisles are now 2.5m wide, allowing for disability access and pushchairs. “Now 15 people can shop the store comfortably,” says Kuldip. “Many customers have commented on how spacious the store feels.”

He wasn’t short of moral support either thanks to his symbol group. “Thames Cash & Carry and the Today’s Group gave us advice and ideas, as well as a new fascia and internal imagery totalling £7,000.”

It took two months to complete the refit and during this time the store closed for just one day while the electrics were being installed.

Basket spend has rocketed as a result of the expansion. “Prior to the refit people were spending just two or three quid. Now our average basket spend is £4.75 and some people are even spending £15,” beams Hamayoon. “In the past footfall was really low because people would just assume that we didn’t have what they were looking for. Now it’s risen from 270 customers a day to 600.”

The sales figures speak for themselves, up 30-40% since the refit. And the group is on course to make a return on investment in a couple of years.

Kuldip claims the refit was a team effort. “The staff were great. Without their help we wouldn’t be here everyone did their bit and they all deserve credit.”

Supervisor Saeed demonstrates how the counter has doubled in size and is now four metres long. The partners are hoping that the extra room will house a lottery kiosk, as well as giving them space for a second till to cope with the increased trade

The original store had six metres of alcohol chillers, which were 25 years old. They had sliding doors that were difficult for customers to move while holding heavy bottles. In their place are 15 metres of efficient refrigeration and energy bills are 10% lower as a result.

The partners invested £6,000 in cream ceramic tiles, which are bright and easy to keep clean and ideal for the convenience format where cleanliness and hygiene are key. The smart-looking tiles replaced carpet tiles which had been used to create a sense of comfort when the outlet had been a video shop.

Nine cameras, including one outside the store, have been installed as part of a remote access security system. The shop originally had just four cameras using a cassette, whereas now a hard disk stores up to 30 days-worth of material. Hamayoon says it cost £2,000, but it’s made staff feel safer and acts as a deterrent.