Store: Nisa Extra
Location: Ashington, Northumberland
Budget: £500,000

When Saki Ghafoor set his sights on turning a listed building into a 6,500sq ft state-of-the-art convenience store, he had to see off more than a few critics.

“Other retailers, Nisa people, and even a few family members told us not to go for it. They said it was too much effort and it wouldn’t work,” he says.

The premises was built in 1924 as a shopping arcade and was taken over by the Co-op in the 1960s, but it had been empty for the past five years. “The chance of owning such an iconic building was something I couldn’t turn down,” explains Saki.

Having convinced his brother and father that it would make an excellent addition to the family’s thriving business, they set to work pulling together the funding. “The family had just sold a new property, so the profit from that has gone into this store,” says Saki. The Ghafoors have also invested profits from their existing Gateshead c-store.

However, the bulk of the money was from a bank loan, which was far harder to come by than first anticipated. “We’ve banked with NatWest for a number of years and we thought we had a good relationship with them, but they refused us a loan,” explains Saki. “We ended up switching to Barclays and getting a loan through them instead.”

Nisa also helped out, contributing 50% of the signage, fascia and graphics costs, which totalled about £18,000. They also had store developers on hand to offer advice.

While Saki had his hands full managing all the construction work, the rest of his family offered plenty of help behind the scenes. “My sister Rabbia and my sister-in-law Shazia did much of the product labelling, and my brother Shami and my dad Abdul dealt with the finances,” he says. “It’s been a family venture and we wouldn’t be where we are if we hadn’t worked together.”

The Ghafoors expect to recoup the investment over the next five to seven years. “It’s been a project and a half, but I have no regrets. I just hope we can reach our turnover target,” says Saki. “At the moment we’re doing £3,000 a day. Considering the size of the store, we want to get it to four times that.”

“The shop is supermarket size, but we’ve fitted it out like a 4,000sq ft c-store so there’s a real sense of space,” says Saki. Even the narrowest aisle is an ample 2.4 metres wide, while the entrance area measures five metres, enabling Saki to showcase the striking staircase.

The 42 metres of chillers were sourced from Italian firm Arneg for the princely sum of £100,000. “They’re above 90% efficient, which helps with running costs,” says Saki.

Impulse area
While the grey fittings in the destination part of the store are similar to that of a multiple, the front end of the store has a different look to highlight the shop’s impulse lines. Smart olive and ash wood fittings are complemented by stainless steel signage.

These modular light fittings, provided by Microlight, are frequently used by supermarkets. They are energy efficient and brighter than standard. The price of the lights, coupled with the cost of the electrics, totalled £25,000.

Media screens
There’s a 46in Sony Bravia flatscreen TV by the tills, and another seven 32in screens dotted around the store. “Radio is all well and good, but it’s nice for customers to have a screen to watch while they’re queuing it makes people realise that this is not your average store,” claims Saki.

Queuing system
The queuing fixture was supplied by Bartuf Systems. It keeps people occupied while they are waiting and encourages those all-important impulse sales.

The high-tech security system has 80 cameras, as well as two customer-facing monitors in the sales area, and three by the tills. “They don’t interfere with genuine shoppers, but they deter would-be thieves,” says Saki. Footage can be reviewed on 15 back office monitors. “Police response is far better if they know you’ve got a good system.”

Saki spent £90,000 on double-glazed, steel-framed, hand-made windows. “You could get PVC windows for a quarter of the price, but because it’s a listed building we’ve had to go for like-for-like replacements.”