Saj Vij had operated a tiny 200sq ft store next to a petrol station on the picturesque Dorset coast for 22 years, but admits he didn’t pay much attention to the shop. However, about seven years ago he began to see convenience stores pop up at petrol stations and decided to jump on the bandwagon. “We contacted the development team at [Spar regional wholesaler] Appleby Westward and expanded to about 1,000sq ft. We were turning over up to £30,000 a week in the summer,” he says.
When the five-year contract came to an end Saj decided to look for another store, but it took a while to find suitable premises.
“We eventually started to see the potential of a former nightclub a couple of miles from our existing site, which had been empty about 10 years,” he says. “We were approached by its owners and swiftly bought it.”
Name: Saj Vij
Location: West Bay, Dorset
Store size: 2,500sq ft
Opened: June 2012
Previously: a nightclub
The property is divided into the 2,500sq ft shop, a 1,000sq ft storage area, two three-bedroom flats above the shop, a further 1,000sq ft area for another shop next door which Saj plans to rent out, and a 25-space car park. Saj bought the property in September 2011 for £500,000, which he considers to be a bargain. “We were offered the same property three years earlier for 40% more,” he says.
Helpfully, Saj was in a strong financial position at the time of buying. “I didn’t have to borrow as we had the money saved up from the disposal of other properties, but I imagine it’d be difficult borrowing the money for some people.”
However, he acknowledges that the planning side of things took longer than he had expected, and it was only in February that they started work on the interior.
The subsequent refit cost £150,000, of which Appleby paid £110,000. “I’m very happy with how it’s taken off. We brought in £20k in the first week, following the June 1 opening,” Saj adds.
For retailers looking for advice, his message is simple: go with your gut feeling. “If you’ve got a vision, just follow it,” he says.
Once you’ve made up your mind, locating the right property is the biggest challenge, he adds. “It can be hard finding a gap in the market. It’s rare to find premises like this, with parking for 25 included, and free from too much competition. There’s a Morrisons about a mile away, but people like convenience and they’re cottoning on to the fact that shops like Morrisons aren’t that cheap.”
It also helps to find a property which is familiar to the local community. “Another advantage about this property is that people know the building and the location,” he adds.
Saj believes his efforts in picking the right location have paid off and he says he couldn’t be happier with his choice.•