Independent retailer Binda Tatla has devised a number of weird and wonderful ways to communicate with his shoppers and staff. Gaelle Walker investigates

Independent retailer Binda Tatla is into interaction, and with a capital I; interaction with his staff, interaction with his suppliers and, most importantly, interaction with his customers and the community.
With its slick glass-fronted exterior and prime high street positioning, the newly built 2,700sq ft neighbourhood store in London's Hampton Hill doesn't fail to pull in the punters - and once they're in, Binda doesn't let them go quietly.
The store has been designed to prompt interaction between staff and customers at every turn.
When they are not busy stacking shelves, baking bread and serving at the till, Binda encourages his staff to stand near the popular hot drinks to go counter, where they can chat to shoppers waiting for their fresh Lavazza cappuccinos and coffees.
He has also introduced the new-style shopping baskets on wheels as a means of engaging shoppers in conversation. "As well as helping some of our more elderly customers, the new baskets also provide an excellent talking point," he explains.
He encourages staff to approach shoppers and show them how to use the wheelie baskets, which make light work of lugging an arm-full of groceries around the store.
He has also introduced upbeat in-store music to create a buzzing atmosphere and provide another opportunity to strike up a conversation with shoppers. Meanwhile, life-size posters of the farmers who supply Budgens with fresh produce work to highlight the quality and provenance of his food and drink products - another hot topic with the Hampton Hill clique.
Other posters of Binda and his team communicate the store's independent identity, which he is always keen to discuss.
"People are becoming increasingly concerned with buying locally and supporting their local community, so it's important they know we are an independent store and nothing like the nearby Tesco Express and Sainsbury's Local," he says.
And Binda is desperate for the store to become an integral part of the local community. "I want the store to be more than just a place for people to buy their food - I want it to become like a hub for the community," he says.
Binda has installed a number of large flat-screen TVs over the store's checkout area for this purpose. Local charities or groups are able to advertise forthcoming events on the screens, or use the community notice board at the front of the store.
He is also considering launching a 'bag for life' designed by local school children. The bag would not only appease the area's eco-conscious shoppers, but strike up a positive relationship with local mums and schools, he believes.
Staff don't escape the Binda treatment, either. Workers have been given name badges which Binda believes will help them to build closer ties with customers.
"Being on first-name terms with someone instantly makes things more personal. I tell my staff to introduce themselves, and then ask the customers for their names, too."
Binda is also quite selective about the type of people he employs to man his store. "What I look for in a member of staff is how they interact with other people. For me, that is the most important thing. I want to employ people with a bit of spark; people who aren't afraid to talk to the customers and build a relationship with them. You can teach anyone how to work a till, but you can't teach someone how to be personable."
All his staff are full-time, as Binda believes this to be key to forming positive relationships with customers. "It's nice for our local customers to come in and see the same friendly face each day, rather than lots of different ones," he says.
And he is just as keen to build positive relationships with his staff. "Staff happiness is vital in any business, but particularly in a store. If there is a bad vibe, customers will sense it and it will put them off."
For this purpose Binda has dotted a number of life-size posters emblazoned with empowering messages and motivational quotes in the staff office and back of the store. One such poster on the office wall reads: "The truth of the matter is that you always know what is the right thing to do, the hard part is doing it."
In order to really drive his points home, most of the posters include pictures of himself and even members of his family. "I believe that family pictures play an important part in boosting staff morale. It reminds people that you are more than just an employer; you are human and have a life outside of work. It makes you much more approachable."
Binda has even gone as far as placing two of his motivational posters in the staff toilet: one on the wall above the loo for the boys, and the other, you've guessed it, on the back of the toilet door for his female workers.
And despite the fact that many people would be "put off" by their employer's image staring out at them as they answer nature's call, Binda says that the motivational quotes are having an immensely positive impact on staff happiness. So much so that he is considering introducing them throughout the store to perk up his shoppers even further.