Less than a mile from the seaside, Nisa Southend Victoria has the benefit of both a railway station entrance and a street entrance, and owner Mitul Patel (pictured) takes full advantage with an offer that appeals to visitors, commuters and locals. The 1,200sq ft store opened last June under Nisa’s Evolution format and has been steadily building up its customer base, with numbers rising from 100 a day when Mitul first opened, to 700 a day on average. Turnover has also seen a dramatic lift, quadrupling in its first year
Mitul also owns a store at Shenfield Station, where peak trade is in the morning and evening. But at Southend Victoria there is also a good lunchtime trade thanks to lots of nearby workplaces, as well as travellers stopping by on their way to Southend airport.
The store sells 150 wraps, about 170 sandwiches plus 100 chilled ready meals a week.
There are two meal deals priced at £3.49 and £3.99 depending on whether people want a standard or deep-filled sandwich. This compares favourably with the station Costa, which sells sandwiches for £4.50. “People might have £3 in their pocket and they can’t even get a sandwich there!” says Mitul. “We’re killing them on food!”
50% of sandwiches are sold as part of a meal deal.
The store’s offering continues to evolve as Mitul picks up on different customer needs. Customers were asking for cloths and sponges so he decided to stock the additional items and give household cleaning a more prominent position. “We moved toilet tissue to the top shelf to create space and moved cleaning products to the middle of the fixture,” he explains. “Sales are up 20% as a result.”
Premixed drinks are the latest addition to the off-licence zone and Mitul claims they are proving popular.
The rail deal
A coffee-to-go offering is vital for customers on the move, and the store’s Tchibo machine is competing with the station Costa. “We sell for £2.10 a cup (at Costa, it’s £3.50) and it’s nice coffee, but the Costa brand is very strong.”
Facing up is key because commuters have limited time, he explains. “Everything has to be bang on,” Mitul says.
Big annual events, such as the London to Southend Bike Ride, Southend Festival, and Southend Pride, mean the station – and the store – become a hive of activity. “People come from all over,” says store supervisor Akta.
The biggest challenge of operating a station store is loss of business caused by engineering work, states Mitul. “We are struggling on the weekends at the moment because there are no trains. Trade drops by 12-15%.”
Healthy snacks are in high demand, with many students opting for a protein bar and coffee on their way to college. The store listened to customer requests and ordered in Mars and Snickers protein bars, which are performing well.
Mitul has put a basket of mixed loose fruit on the counter to encourage health-driven impulse buys. He estimates that 20-30% of customers pick up a piece. “Everyone is trying to buy healthier lines. Lots of people buy them in the morning on their way to work and the mums tend to buy for their kids to snack on after school.”
Lentil and Quinoa Chips available are also a hit with health-conscious consumers.