The Mediratta family has been at the helm of Londis Lane End for decades, supporting their community, local suppliers and even neighbouring businesses
You’d be hard pushed to find a store more perfectly stitched into the fabric of its local community than Londis Lane End in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
Located in a small shopping precinct at the heart of a large housing estate, the store has been run by the Mediratta family for more than 30 years, over which time it has seen great changes and challenges; three recessions, the rise of online shopping, the birth of the discounters, the tobacco display ban and much more in between.
The key to its success? A deep understanding of its local place and people combined with the will to adapt and meet their changing needs.
As such, the business - which is now run by Romi and Arti Mediratta - has changed almost beyond recognition since it was founded in 1983 by Romi’s parents.
Londis Lane End
Size: 2,200sq ft
Basket spend: £8
Parking: Free customer car park
Services: Post Office, dry-cleaning, ATM
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 8am-8pm, Sunday 9.30am-2pm
“Shopping trends have changed so much over the years,” Romi says. “In the 80s mornings used to be our busiest time as that was when the housewives would come in and buy their groceries for the day ahead. By the late afternoon no one was shopping and we used to close at 6.30pm. Now, both husbands and wives tend to work so we get a huge rush in the evening. In fact, 6.30pm is probably our busiest time as partners come in to decide what they want for their evening meal. As a result we stay open till 8pm.”
One of the biggest changes to the business came in 2011 after Romi took the “difficult” decision to close his BT Video store located in the unit next door to his Londis. “The video shop used to be a really successful business that worked well in conjunction with the c-store. But then Sky and Virgin came along and rentals took a nose-dive!
“For us it was a case of one door closing and another opening, as shutting the video shop down allowed us to extend the c-store into that unit, adding a large bake-off offer and growing our chilled range in the process.”
It was a wise move, and four years on fresh and chilled foods account for almost 30% of Romi’s sales, with baked goods not far behind. “Bread sales are incredibly strong, peaking on a Saturday when we bake off bread constantly from 7am till 1pm,” he says.
Fresh fruit and veg sales continue to grow year on year as shoppers increasingly turn to scratch cooking for their evening and weekend meals, and Romi plans to extend his offer in 2016, at the expense of frozen foods which he says are in slow decline.
Romi’s Londis-supplied fresh fruit and vegetable range is supplemented by goods from the local produce market which he or his retailing comrade Raj Aggarwal visit around twice a week. It’s a savvy move which allows Romi to offer more unusual products.
April of this year also saw the opening of an in-store post office. After wading through a “mountain” of paperwork and an eight-week community consultation, the post office has now come into its own, boosting footfall and sales in the run-up to the festive season as a result.
However, one element that has remained constant over the years is Romi’s quest to offer his shoppers the best possible value for money. Being located at the heart of a residential estate certainly has its benefits in terms of community ties, but also presents challenges, as Romi explains: “Because of our location away from the main road this is not a store that has traditionally seen much passing trade. We have to try to get as much out of every customer as possible by encouraging them to buy more while they are here,” he says. “One of the key ways in which we do this is with promotions.”
Alcohol is the category which sees the most promotional activity. In addition to the set Londis offers, Romi supplements his impressive alcohol range with drinks from his nearby Dhamecha and Booker branches, allowing him to offer his own ‘Local Deals’. A vast stock room also allows him to buy in bulk and take advantage of better prices.
It’s a tactic that is clearly working, with alcohol accounting for almost 34% of Romi’s sales and average basket spend currently cresting £8 and growing year on year.
But promotions aren’t alone in contributing to Romi’s bulging basket spend - service also plays a key role. “We can’t really compete with the supermarkets on price apart from when we do promotions so service is vital,” he says. “The simple truth is that people come here because they like to see Arti and myself and the staff, but particularly my parents who still choose to work every morning. They are well past retirement age, but they still love coming in.”
Maintaining sound relationships with other neighbouring businesses is also key, and as such Romi supports a range of local suppliers including the egg and milk supplier Lacey’s Family Farm. “We have also taken the decision to not sell newspapers or the National Lottery out of respect for the newsagent adjacent to our store,” Romi adds.
Never one to stand still, 2016 looks set to hold more change with Romi looking into fitting doors on his chillers in a bid to reduce energy bills. “There is no standing still and certainly no end to learning in this industry. It’s exhausting, but also exhilarating and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” concludes Romi. And neither would we.