Alkesh Gadher

Best-One, Isleworth, London

Working closely with the local crèche by sponsoring its events and making donations means Alkesh has successfully nurtured a loyal customer base, even though there is plenty of competition in the local area.

Rav Garcha

Nisa Local, West Midlands

Rather than running marketing campaigns sporadically, Rav plans them to coincide with major events such as Christmas and the Jubilee, so that he can take advantage of the wider opportunity.

Andrew Porter

Eurospar Creightons of Finaghy, Belfast

Andrew is keeping his finger firmly on the pulse when it comes to the potential of online marketing. He has been busy developing the store’s Facebook following, which currently has 450 ‘likes’.

Dee Sedani

Londis, Etwall, Derby

While leaflets are still the most popular option for convenience retailers looking to market their businesses, Dee is convinced that the future of marketing lies with making the most of online activity.

What was your last marketing campaign and how did you organise it?

We’ve developed a new menu for our deli, which we’ve now had printed and given out to several thousand customers in-store. It’s definitely resulted in an uplift in sales, as well as making it clear to customers what they can buy from the deli.

Rav: We’re in the middle of celebrating summer events, but our previous campaign was at Christmas when one of our stores sponsored a youth club disco. The people who attended had great fun and now associate that positive experience with Nisa Broadway. It’s best to wait for an event like Christmas or the Jubilee and then piggy back on to it if you really want to see results. It’s not about marketing a product as such, but marketing your store as the place to go.

Dee: We sent out a flyer on our milk, eggs, potatoes and bread, all priced at £1. We had it professionally printed and sent to 3,000 homes, but I didn’t really see the results that I’d hoped for.

Alkesh: We have a Best One promotional leaflet distributed regularly, but we sent out our own leaflets on May 21 to publicise a week of Jubilee deals. We also used in-store marketing material to raise awareness.

What tools do you use to market the business?

Andrew: We mainly use leaflets, and we’re in the process of developing our website, which we’ll upload our promotional leaflets on to. We don’t advertise as Eurospar invests in billboard and bus stop advertising on our behalf, as well as printing leaflets with special offers.

Rav: We sponsor local events, use leaflets, advertise, and we’re active on Facebook. Nisa releases new promotional leaflets every three weeks, but we also do our own based around specific occasions, such Back to School and Halloween. Another free tool I use is to add the store to Google maps and Google places.

Dee: We used to advertise, but it wasn’t cost effective. We’ve started posting Londis promotional leaflets via Royal Mail, but I’m not convinced they are working either. I’m working on an online marketing project.

Alkesh: As well as leaflets, we advertise in the fortnightly church newsletter and put up posters in-store.

How much marketing material do you distribute on any one subject?

Andrew: The Eurospar leaflets go out to 25,000 homes every three weeks. Other than that, we tend to give out leaflets in-store if we have something to flag up.

Rav: We distribute 2,000 leaflets locally, and another 2,000 via a free newspaper. We also have leaflets in-store, and if a customer wants their bags packed staff know to put a leaflet in the bag.

Dee: I used to distribute 2-3,000 leaflets, but I recently started a trial using Royal Mail, which has taken the number up to 5,000. So far, I haven’t seen a difference, so I’ll probably go back to my original figure. I may even lose leaflets all together and just have online marketing.

Alkesh: For the jubilee, we sent 1,500 leaflets out via a local firm. With the Best One leaflets we’ll have 2,000 distributed.

Is it possible to measure the effect of your marketing?

Andrew: Ten years ago, we worked out that we would have to increase our weekly sales by £1,500 to make leaflets worthwhile. We tried it and it blew us away - both sales and customer footfall increased. It’s still the same today.

Rav: We’ve just increased our leaflet distribution by 2,000 and seen a £2,000 uplift in the same time frame. Obviously, it can’t be attributed solely to leaflets. With our Jubilee activity we won’t be able to measure it in terms of sales. We’ll be looking at people’s reactions on Facebook. We’ll know whether or not we’ve left a legacy if people are talking about it on Facebook.

Dee: If a leaflet is effective, sales of stock on promotion go through the roof.

Alkesh: Most of our marketing is through in-store materials and leaflet distribution, so we check their success against sales of promotional products.

How much time do you spend on it?

Andrew: It doesn’t take much. A lot of it is covered by Spar. We have to be careful not to spend too much time on it.

Rav: All my time - you’re always marketing your business. And you need to get staff doing it, too. It’s no good if I’m spreading the word about our stores and I’ve got members of staff talking about how cheap Asda is. Everyone has to have a positive message.

Dee: At the moment I’m eating, sleeping and breathing it as I want to get the QR codes off the ground to show Londis that it can work.

Alkesh: I could spend more time on marketing than I do, but I tend not to as I’m generally overseeing it, rather than actually working on it directly.

How much does marketing cost you?

Andrew: We spend about £10,000 a year in total.

Rav: Some of my stores require it more than others, but I’d say we’re spending £50-£60 every three weeks, and we take a half-page advert for £300 + VAT.

Dee: It’s £104 a week to send out the leaflets through Royal Mail. I’m on a 48-week contract, but we won’t be continuing it beyond then as we’ve not seen any improvement in sales.

Alkesh: Advertising in the church newsletter costs about £400 a year the Best One leaflets are part of the symbol package. When I distribute my own leaflets, it costs about £200-£300 to print 1,000 leaflets and another £25-£30 for distribution.

How important is marketing now compared with five years ago?

Andrew: It’s more important today as consumers are looking for choice and value and you have to shout about it louder than everyone else.

Rav: It’s always been important, it’s just that now there are more media. C-store retailers tend to fill ads with products, which is wrong - it’s too much for customers to take in. Instead, I just pay for two bottom right quarter pages and focus on one product and one price or offer, and make it large and clear. With events, it’s much less about specific products and more about creating an atmosphere.

Dee: Paper marketing is worthless. E-marketing has value, but it isn’t worth giving up too much time to.

Alkesh: It’s really important now. There’s more competition these days and you can’t afford to sit back and wait for the pennies to roll in. Now, you have to put in the extra effort to go out there and bring people into the store.

Does any member of staff have a specific responsibility for it?

Andrew: I generally look after the marketing side of things myself because I enjoy it, but if online marketing gets big enough then it could be too time-consuming and I’d have to look at giving it to someone else.

Rav: Myself, the store manager, and one of the young lads work on it. It’s good to have a younger person on board as they’re using social media all the time.

Dee: At the moment, I’m doing it all, but I plan to hand it over to a new employee who will be IT focused.

Alkesh: At the beginning of the year I designated a member of staff to look after marketing activities. It gives them more pride in their work, and from my point of view it’s good to have another pair of eyes on what you’re doing.

Where do you get advice from on how best to market your business?

Andrew: By reading trade magazines, and also by looking at what the multiples are doing.

Rav: From anyone who is willing to give me five minutes of their time. I bumped into Costcutter retailer Paul Cheema at the cash & carry recently and we ended up talking shop. I’m on the Independent Retailer Board run by the Association of Convenience Stores, and it’s another good networking opportunity.

Dee: Londis gives some advice, and I do look at trade magazines, but I tend to come up with most of the ideas on my own, just by brainstorming.

Alkesh: Trade magazines and word of mouth are useful. I’m friends with a lot of shopkeepers, not just within my symbol, but in other groups as well, and we’ll always talk about different ideas. Best One is also very good when it comes to marketing advice.

Does staging community events deliver as a marketing activity?

Andrew: Absolutely. We have an annual Customer Appreciation Week where suppliers come to the store and sample produce. People appreciate it and are loyal to the store.

Rav: You can’t apportion any sales directly to events - it’s the overall feel-good effect they create that helps to build loyalty.

Dee: I don’t buy into community events in the way I used to. I find people don’t shop here, but still want £2,000 for their kitty. However, I am looking at holding a Clean Up Your Town event that I hope will be good for business.

Alkesh: Definitely. Last year, we provided the local crèche with Playdough and this year we’re going to help make an outdoor play area. You can see that it works from the people coming to the store, and the fact that it’s the same faces day in and day out.

How effective is online marketing?

Andrew: We don’t use it at the moment, but it’s something we have our eye on. We’re busy building a database on Facebook - we have 450 ‘likes’ so far.

Rav: It depends on what you’re doing online. The best example of using it to its full marketing potential is Guy Warner with his Taste Club and newsletters. In our Shrewsbury store, we’re making an effort to use Facebook better. I recently analysed our Facebook usage and we’ve seen an 800% uplift compared with the previous week. It doesn’t mean we’ll make more sales immediately, but it does mean that we’re communicating well with customers.

Dee: I’m in the process of setting up a Facebook account for my Etwall store that uses QR codes for promotions. We’ll do something along the lines of if people ‘like’ the store, they can have a £5 discount. I plan to have them implemented by mid-June.

Alkesh: Online is an area we need to look at. If it’s working for other industries, why not us?