Previously a derelict building, Simply Fresh Faversham in Kent is now a hive of activity under new owner Sandeep Bains, who has invested £100,000 in the store. His family has 15 years’ experience in retail and, with a business degree under his belt, Sandeep is determined to make the outlet a success with a strong focus on fresh and local food.
Sandeep tweets about the store every few days. He used Twitter to raise awareness of the store’s opening and also to source local suppliers. “I tweeted asking local suppliers to get in touch and that’s how I found ice cream supplier Taywell.” The company is located just 30 miles away and products come in a variety of flavours, from classic vanilla to the more sophisticated honeycomb and pistachio.
Sandeep had to start from scratch when it came to buying equipment. He spent £35,000 on 17.5m of refrigeration with energy-saving doors. In addition, the beer chillers have double-glazed doors to make them as energy-efficient as possible. An inverter runs all of the chillers off from one deck of motors, with energy savings of 30-40% compared with standard equipment.
Dumbrells in Canterbury supplies the store’s fruit and veg. “I prefer to top up every day as opposed to bulk ordering, which is the good thing about using a local supplier. They are flexible and I don’t have to make huge orders,” says Sandeep. The shop is running a healthy eating initiative, whereby local schools, nurseries and childcare centres can use store coupons to get free fruit and veg.
Wide aisles, a light colour scheme and subtle LED lighting all make for a welcoming environment. Trendy 3D signage, costing £5,500, also helps to create a modern feel and highlights categories and promotional bays. “Everyone is really happy with what we’ve done,” says Sandeep. “Customers have said it feels like Christmas because they’re so delighted to have a local store.”
Sandeep gave out 200 leaflets to people passing the shop in advance of its opening. The leaflets introduced Sandeep and his brother Raj, who runs another c-store, Ospringe Food and Wine, nearby. The leaflet offered £2 off on a £5 spend on fruit and veg. “By offering a deal on fruit and veg people are likely to do a bigger shop here, as they aren’t the kind of products you could buy on impulse.”
A strong believer in networking, Sandeep spoke to other retailers in the area to get an idea about which products to stock. “Spar Seasalter, which is about 10 minutes’ drive away, was really helpful. Owner Paul Hudson recommended Parkers, which produces a range of local meats and cheeses.” Customers can choose from a wide selection, including Canterbury Cobbler, Nannie Goat’s Cheddar and Kentish Blue.
Organic produce has proved a real hit with many customers. “The demographic here is quite affluent so Suma Wholefoods products are popular and sales have really impressed,” claims Sandeep. “We also have fizzy organic drinks with a premium price of 95p and they’ve nearly sold out. We don’t sell anything like this at my brother’s store because it’s on an estate so the customer base is entirely different.”
The store’s off-licence area is defined by dark, wooden-style flooring and premium black shelving, complemented by smart spotlights. An introductory deal on wines offers ‘buy one, get two free’ on red, white and rosé varieties of Premier Estates wines. “It’s important to give people strong offers, so that they instantly perceive the store to be good value for money,” says Sandeep.
Local councillor Andy Culham (pictured) runs the Faversham Plastering Co, which took care of the structural work before the refit, and the finishing touches of the external building. He was full of praise for the shop: “Not only do independent stores support the economy by supporting local businesses, they also source local products. This is the sort of business we like to see in our community.”
Maureen Chapple (pictured) and Mike Canty, who run Faversham-based Wheatless Eats, regularly visit the store to check how their homemade wheat-free products are performing. The range spans ambient, fresh and frozen, and includes: leek & Roquefort tart, sticky date slices, and spinach and ricotta lattice pies. Sales have “exceeded expectations”, says Sandeep.
A large CCTV monitor above the health and beauty aisle shows a selection of different camera angles from around the store. Sandeep explains that he had 16 cameras fitted inside, as well as four outside, because the shelves in the store are high and so security was a potential issue. The CCTV system also means that staff feel safer at work and it acts as a deterrent for would-be shoplifters.
The store layout was the subject of much debate. “Costcutter wanted me to have the counter in the corner, with shelves running across the entrance, but myself and Simply Fresh director Kash Khera wanted them to run in the same direction as the customer entering the store. That way, people would start shopping, rather than going straight to the counter,” says Sandeep.