An unrelenting focus on maintaining high standards, combined with technological innovation and community enterprise, has proved a winning formula for Costcutter Bromsgrove
Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out - or so said the American motivational author Robert Collier. And never could a saying be more true of the Convenience Retail Awards (CRA) 2015 Best Small Store awardwinner Chaz Chahal, whose 1,300sq ft Costcutter store in Bromsgrove quite simply blew the judging panel away.
The Worcestershire store, which was originally purchased by his parents in 1999, has undergone a radical transformation from neighbourhood top-up to destination grocery store under Chaz’s watch.
The business as a whole has expanded and now boasts three stores, including Chaz’s most recent acquisition in nearby Inkberrow. However, it was back in 2005 at the family’s new Kidderminster store that Chaz first cut his retail teeth, following the completion of an engineering degree and management training course.
He looks back on that first year as a new store owner semi-fondly - as a period of “very hard work and extremely long hours”. But it wasn’t long before Chaz hit his stride, and with sales booming at Kidderminster 2009 saw him set his sights on transforming the family’s Bromsgrove store.
Having purchased the bungalow to the rear of the store in a bid to prevent any planning objections, Chaz embarked on a £400,000 refurbishment which saw the store more than double in size and the Costcutter fascia placed above the door.
Store size: 1,300sq ft
Weekly turnover: £32,000
Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday 7am-10pm
Key categories: Hot and cold food and drinks to go, local produce, BWS, fresh and chilled, seasonal bays
Additional services: National Lottery
Social media: Facebook; Twitter @costcutterbg
The store had joined Costcutter back in 2007, but Chaz was keen to wait until the refurbishment had been carried out before he badged it up as such. “You only get one chance to create a first impression so I wanted to hit them with the full and finished picture,” he explains.
Dedicated spirit, tobacco and storage rooms were constructed at the back, which enable him to offer impeccable availability and bulk buy promoted goods in order to sell many for less than their pricemarks. Just last week Chaz held a ‘Flash Sale’ on 102g packs of Doritos, pricemarked at £1, for just 50p a pack. The promotion was advertised in-store and on Facebook and stocks sold out in a matter of hours.
Unsurprisingly, turnover and profits soared in the weeks and months post refurbishment and have carried on growing since, despite the opening of a Sainsbury’s supermarket, a Spar and a new BP garage just minutes away. The store turns over £32,000 a week - that’s £24.6 per sq ft - and basket spend is increasing.
Responding to increased demand for fresh foods, the store boasts a large range of fruit and vegetables - one-third of which is sourced via Costcutter and the rest from a weekly dawn visit to the local fruit and vegetable wholesale market in Birmingham.
Chaz is able to make handsome margins from many of these which, once back at the store, are packaged up into multipacks to ensure that speed of service at the till is not impaired by having to weigh products.
The range is complemented by locally-sourced meats and eggs, and Chaz is planning to expand this offer as part of another store refit which will also see the front windows opened up to let in more natural light. The front of the store will also be re-laid and a dedicated electronic cigarette display unit created to the side of the tobacco gantry.
The store has recently overhauled its tea and coffee offer, adding more premium lines, delisting some value items and introducing eco refill packs in line with shopper demand, a move which - according to Chaz - has resulted in a 5% sales increase.
Detailed analysis of his epos data is something that Chaz takes seriously, and he believes it’s one of the key factors driving his success. “The epos runs the business,” Chaz explains. “It supports us in so many different ways, from identifying new growth areas for us to exploit, to keeping wastage low and helping to preserve and, in many cases, boost our profit margins. It also helps to expose incorrectly stored stock. There’s been the odd occasion that members of staff have told me that we need to order more tea, for example, but when I’ve checked the epos it’s been clear that we should have five more boxes. Sure enough, a quick search of the stock room turns them up.”
Chaz’s penchant for technology doesn’t stop there - he’s an avid fan of social media, which he says helps him to “invade shoppers in their homes and when they are out and about!”. Chaz now has three distinct Facebook sites for each of his stores - and has appointed a dedicated member of staff to manage each one according to a set timetable of promotions, community news, National Lottery draws and in-store events and competitions. And to make interacting with his customers even easier, Chaz is planning on buying three in-store iPads for staff to use on the shop floor rather than having to log on to the back office computer.
One set of promotions that make a regular appearance on the Bromsgrove store’s Facebook and Twitter pages are ‘Thank You Deals’ - an exclusive round of price cuts on key branded items, designed to thank local people for their valued support during a recent parking row with the local council.
More than 600 local people signed a petition against council plans to paint yellow lines outside Chaz’s store - with many customers also writing directly to the council about the inconvenience and harm that this would cause.
The opposition proved so successful that the council was forced to withdraw the plans - prompting Chaz to introduce the special ‘Thank You Deals’. His community spirit doesn’t end there, though. Chaz is a school councillor and a key member of the finance committee. The store also supports the school with regular fundraising activities, donations for cookery lessons and free soft drinks for school sports days and events. It also raises funds for the local hospice and other local good causes.
It’s little wonder, then, that the people of Bromsgrove were so keen to jump to Chaz’s aid when he needed it - and why he was crowned this year’s Best Small Store.
Best use of technology
Award sponsor The Retail Data Partnership was impressed by the extent to which Chaz uses his epos data to drive change and boost profits.
Chaz closely monitors his data to glean a detailed understanding of his stockholding and margins. The system is set up to automatically order three times a week and every item has a minimum stock level set against it, ensuring there is always ample stock of fast sellers and minimal amounts of slow ones.
The store also employs a ‘smart CCTV’ system which allows Chaz to view live images wherever he is, on a mobile, laptop or tablet.
Recognising the need for a strong social media presence, Chaz attended a social media course run by his bank and now employs a member of staff to man its Facebook page and Twitter feed.
A perfectionist, Chaz has implemented a rigorous regime of cleaning and facing up in the store to ensure that it constantly looks perfect. The entire store is vacuumed and mopped each evening and each shelf deep cleaned once a week. A drawing with the store layout is displayed in the stock room and each day staff pick a different section of shelving to clean before highlighting it on the drawing. This allows staff to pick up where others have left off, and ensures that every inch of the store is constantly squeaky clean. Staff are given extra motivation to maintain these high standards, with employees regularly rewarded with high street vouchers.