Three is a magic number and that's certainly the case with the Singhs. Brothers Mandeep, Vrinder and Baljeet have been involved in convenience retail since they were tots and their new store on Herries Road, Sheffield, is their most exciting project yet.

With eldest brother Mandeep aged just 30, and twins Vrinder and Baljeet a tender 27, it's difficult to believe that these happy-go-lucky lads are running not one, but three stores around Sheffield. However, once they start talking, it's clear that they mean business.

The Singh family has owned a shop on Teynham Road for 20 years and another on Manor Road for four-and-a-half, so the boys grew up helping out mum and dad in the store. While some teens would resent having to spend their spare time stacking shelves, the boys' experience simply spurred them on. "We were never just a little corner shop," says Mandeep. "We've always sent out leaflets so we weren't getting only distress purchases and passing trade - people were coming to us specifically for our multibuy offers, rather than go to the likes of Tesco."

Mandeep took to heart the notion that clever marketing and good customer service can really get results and after studying for a BA Honours in business studies, he decided to take on management of the stores and his brothers followed the same path.

The three brothers bought the Herries Road site in April last year on the advice of their father. It comprised a convenience store, a butchers and a hairdresser - all of which had been out of action for 18 months. "At first we thought we might open the store as it was, but we wanted customers to know that it wasn't the same old store with the same old high prices, so we decided to give it a full revamp," says Mandeep. "We gutted the place, knocked through the butchers to expand the store to 1,000sq ft and had a new shop front erected."

The boys were keen to make a real impression with Herries Road, which made it an obvious choice for Booker to trial a novel store concept as part of the Premier relaunch. While the external fascia retained Premier's classic appearance, inside the Singh name is emblazoned with the Premier crest.

The boys couldn't be happier with the new look. "Customer reaction has been brilliant," says Mandeep. "Before we opened, residents didn't have anything local, they just had a Tesco. With Premier, we're still independent, but we've got the professional image that the fascia brings. The new logo is all about bringing back the local store concept."

Booker's new and improved offering has also helped the Singhs with ranging, which was a pretty tricky task where the new store was concerned. "Our Manor Road store might sell more Euro Shopper products because the customers are generally more price-driven," says Mandeep. "But on Herries Road we get more of a mix - some customers are very price-conscious, while others might buy only brands."

Booker immediately made the job of choosing products easier by providing the Singhs with a list of the top 500 national bestsellers. The cash and carry group claims that 7% of its retail range accounts for 51% of sales, so stocking the top 500 should prove invaluable. Mandeep certainly thinks so: "Normally, you'd just know your top two or three products, but with Booker's top 500 I'm always able to keep topped up on core lines and then base the store's other 1,500 lines around the locality."

The boys have tactically placed a selection of both economy and branded ranges right by the entrance of the store, so that customers will realise what's on offer straight away. "At the end of one aisle we've got all of the Euro Shopper value products. The other aisle has a selection of Premier promotions with the big brands," says Mandeep. "We learnt not to put too many products on shelf. It works better if you bulk up on a few key lines and really catch people's attention."

And it's not just customers' attention that the new store has captured. "We've had Parfetts Cash and Carry come in and say 'Hats off to you. I know we're competitors, but we couldn't have done it any better' and Martin McColl's has also phoned to arrange a visit," grins Mandeep.

Once the boys had the store sorted on the inside, they were really keen to shout about it. "We sent out about 5,000 leaflets telling people when the store was opening and had a balloon display outside the store," explains Vrinder. "Everyone in the local area knew about the opening - it even made the front page of the local paper."

He concedes that it wasn't cheap to go to such lengths, but it paid off. "Since we've had our second store, we realised that it was necessary to spend a fair amount of money if we wanted a good job done - if you cut corners, it shows."

Mandeep agrees: "The balloons cost money, but the number of people who walked past and were talking about it was amazing!"

The Singhs have spent £500,000 on the store in total. "You've got to invest if you want to stay ahead," says Mandeep. "We sponsor the local school's rugby and football teams," he says. "We also pay a couple of hundred pounds a year to produce educational books for the local primary school. It's the local kids who are putting money into our business, so we like to give something back. Spending a few pounds goes a long way."

The store is also part-funding the creation of a book about the local area. And plans are in place to give customers free hessian bags carrying the Singh's logo.

In addition, the boys are working on another way to promote the brand. "We've got a meeting arranged with Sheffield Wednesday Football Club to put up an advertising board on the pitch," says Mandeep. Again, he acknowledges that this will be costly, but adds: "Whatever we spend, it's split three ways because it's benefiting all the Singh businesses."

The boys aren't satisfied with merely plugging what they've got, though. They are still full of ideas on how Herries Road can be improved. "Our next step will be to write to the council requesting a drop curb so that cars can easily park outside the front of the store," says Mandeep.

They are also looking to lease the old hairdressers building as a business that will complement their own. "With our Teynham Road store we bought out the opposition and leased it out as a takeaway. The businesses work really well together," says Mandeep. "We're looking to do something similar here with the hairdressers."

With so much going on at the Herries Road store, it would be easy to neglect their other outlets, but the boys are determined that this won't be the case. "Between us, we visit all three stores every day," says Vrinder. "We're even open on Christmas Day, which is one of the busiest days of the year."

Mandeep agrees that he and his brothers aren't shy of hard work. "We finish at 10pm every night and we often do 16-hour days," he says. "We man the tills and get stuck in putting stock on shelves and cleaning. When you're doing a 9 to 5 job, you go home at the end of the day and forget about everything, but this is a family business and we want to take it forward," says Mandeep.

And the reason for their unerring determination? "Our Dad!" laugh all three, who are clearly keen to make him proud. "He's been in the retail business for a long time. He should retire, but he won't," says Mandeep.

"He visits the stores and doesn't say much - he just checks that everyone is busy and that the shops are clean and then he'll walk out again. That's what keeps us on our toes. He lets us do what we want and as long as we're doing it right, he's happy."
shop profile
Premier, Herries Road, Sheffield

In-store services: free ATM, PayPoint, food to go, Lottery

Size: 1,000sq ft

Staff: two full-time,

four part-time

Opening hours: 6am-9pm

Mon-Sat; 7am-9pm Sunday

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