Daniel Wilson found setting up his third store on the coast was a world apart from his first ventures. Sarah Britton reports
Striking a balance between premium stuffed peppers and the rather less sophisticated bucket and spade is all in a day’s work for Daniel Wilson at his new seafront store in the £150m residential and leisure complex The Sands, Scarborough.
Daniel already owns two shops in the North Yorkshire town where the new Nisa Local is based. But when he explains that there are plans for a waterpark, a casino, a 6,000 seater open-air theatre and 100 holiday apartments within The Sands development, it becomes clear that his latest purchase is an entirely different beast.
He admits that having owned his Peasholm store for only four years and his Northfleet unit for 18 months, it was a risk to buy another store. But he and his business partners - brother Craig, dad Nigel and mum Gillian - were confident that they could cope. “Craig manages Peasholm, and my wife, Veronica, is managing Northstead, so mum and dad were happy for us to go ahead with the new store,” says Daniel. “Sometimes good opportunities crop up that you can’t turn down.”
Daniel took on ownership of the store at the end of March, but was determined that it should be open in time for Easter and the bumper trade that the holiday brings. “We had only two-and-a-half weeks to get the shop ready, but the bank holidays are big business and we weren’t going to miss out. It really was a push to get things done - we had our electricity installed on the Wednesday and we opened on Friday.”
His efforts paid off, though. “We traded as much on that weekend as we did the whole of the next week,” claims Daniel.
There is no doubt that the store is in its element during the holidays, and particularly when the sun makes an appearance. “The average weekly turnover here is £18,000, but when the weather is fine and the kids are off school it shoots up to about £30,000,” says Daniel.
However, he is well aware that sales will fade along with the temperatures. “In winter sales will drop off a lot, so we might find we have a bit too much stock. It’s difficult to judge exactly how this store will do because it’s very weather orientated.”
Whatever happens, Daniel will be ready for it, thanks to his bean-counting background. He worked as an accountant for eight years before growing restless and moving into retail, but his knack for number crunching is helping him to manage finances at The Sands store. “I try to work out the worst-case scenario, so that there aren’t any nasty surprises further down the line,” he says. “You spend the first six to 12 months losing on a store, but that’s just how business works. It’s naïve to expect that you will make a profit in the first year, but if you plan for a loss you can manage it, whereas if you plan to make a profit and you don’t, then you’re in trouble.”
In addition to adjusting to the store’s seasonality, Daniel also has to ensure that the store meets the needs of an entirely new client base. “There’s a different mix of customers here compared with our other stores,” he claims. “In Northstead, which is on an estate, we sell six sacks of potatoes in a week, whereas here we’ll only get through one.”
But while potatoes aren’t big sellers at The Sands unit, the store’s upmarket food-to-go products are going down a storm. “The apartments within the complex tend to be holiday lets. They are inhabited by affluent consumers who are willing to spend money on high-end foods, so we sell more premium products here. We also get a lot of foreign students on school trips who buy this type of product.”
The store’s food to go offering is already impressive, with the likes of three bean salads, stuffed peppers and olives, as well as standard pre-packed sandwiches adorning the shelves. A Bake & Bite counter, manned by dad Nigel, also offers freshly made sandwiches to order, while a self-service hot drinks area and seaview window seating all add to the chic feel of the store.
But Daniel wants to take a bigger bite of the pie: “We are planning to install a deli fridge so that we can take full advantage of the demand for premium foods. We also want to have more sandwich fillings on show so that it’ll really catch people’s eye.”
However, it’s a careful balancing act, because Daniel also wants the store to appeal to passing trade from families heading to the beach for the day. “We have plenty of toys, such as buckets and spades,” says Daniel. But he is careful to keep them separate from other stock so that people still take his food offering seriously.
“We wanted to keep toys away from the rest of the shop, so we’ve put them in the first aisle where you can see them through the window. We could have put them outside the shop, but I was concerned it would affect the way the store’s perceived.”
The other market that the store caters for is the local youths, who often stop off for a snack after a day’s skate-boarding. “We get young people coming in to buy the reduced bake-off goods in the evening and they use the hot water dispenser from our coffee area for Pot Noodles,” says Daniel.
So far, it seems he is succeeding in keeping everybody happy. “Customers pay the shop plenty of compliments - they like the prices and the promotions,” he says. “We offer things such as buy one get one free on soft drinks. We don’t really need to because in this location, right by the sea, people would buy them anyway. But it’s nice to be able to offer customers a good deal.”
Of course, as every good c-store owner will tell you, the only way to stay ahead of the pack is to continually develop your shop, so Daniel has a long to-do list.
He is campaigning to get car parking outside the store. “We are in a busy traffic area, but there are double yellow lines outside. People still make quick stops to nip in and buy a paper, but they’re not going to do any reasonable kind of shop when they’re rushing to beat a parking warden,” says Daniel. “We’re getting a petition together to apply for parking spots. We’ve already been turned down once, but hopefully with a few signatures behind us we can get help from councillors to turn a couple of nearby taxi bays into spaces. They are never used by taxis and it would make a real difference if customers could park there.”
Introducing the National Lottery is another of Daniel’s aims. “We’re waiting to get the go ahead on the lottery. We’ll do well with scratchcards here because there’s a high customer count and people on their hols are a bit more relaxed with their money.”
With so many plans in place, Daniel needs to reduce the time he spends on the shop floor so that he can step back and take an overview of the business. He is easing the burden of running The Sands store by passing on the reins to deputy manager Colin. “I’m training him up to manage the store so that I can spend more time on the paperwork and cashing up,” says Daniel.
While Daniel claims that he and his family are keen to see the business expand, the Wilsons have no plans to add to their mini empire just yet. “We’re not activel0y looking for stores, but I always keep my eyes peeled,” he says. “I’m only 28, so there’s plenty of time to build up the business.”
Nisa Local, The Sands, Scarborough
Size: 2,000sq ft
Staff: 5 full-time, 8 part-time
Opening hours: 7am-10pm Mon to Sat, 7.30am-10pm Sundays
Additional services: ATM, PayPoint, food to go