M Local opened up near Londis Headington two weeks ago. I was worried that it would be a big hit, but it’s been okay. For the first week we had a sales drop of 4%, which isn’t bad. I wondered what they were doing differently to me in order to steal my sales.

Three or four of their staff had already come to check out my store, so I went over to the M Local to take a look. They had milk on offer at 2ltr for 97p, whereas we were selling it at £1.39. They were also selling bread at £1, while ours was priced at £1.29. I’m not one of those retailers who will just sit back and do nothing. In order to compete, I’ve changed the prices of my Londis-supplied bread and milk. I’m selling bread at 99p and 2ltr milk at 89p, so I’m making a slight loss on those, but overall sales have now returned to where I was before. A lot of retailers reduce prices on every range to compete with rival stores, but that’s not a good thing to do. Instead, focus on your known-value items as this is what customers tend to pick up on.

I’ve taken on a new staff member who previously worked at a nearby Iceland. His merchandising is second to none. He’s a real perfectionist and he loves it here because we just let him get on with it. He’s so fast thanks to his previous retail experience, and he puts all the stock out neatly. By contrast, the M Local is a mess - the cans are just chucked onto the shelf and the brands don’t face the front because the new staff they have there don’t realise the importance of merchandising. That’s my store’s advantage my standards are very high and I make sure things are spot-on.

The other advantage that we have is customer service. My staff communicate to customers all the time, they are always jolly and make them feel welcome. They tell them about any deals and if we are running a promotion in the local paper, they will even cut the promotional coupon out of the paper for them, which customers love. It makes for better staff-customer interaction and helps to build up a real rapport.

Another major point of difference will be when we move to 24-hour opening hours. We are trialling it this weekend and if it is successful then we’ll look to trial it in the week as well.