Singh's Premier, Sheffield

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From fun days to trolley dashes and football tournaments, the Singhs are leading the way in community engagement

The Singhs have just hosted their fifth annual football tournament, bringing local families together for an evening of fun, and raising £500 for HMS Sheffield in the process. The event, which took place at Bramall Lane football stadium, was supported by Sheffield United, Booker and Mars and saw local youngsters battle it out for the much sought-after Singh’s Cup.

By anyone’s standards, organising an event such as this is a major achievement, but this is just one of many ongoing projects that the business heads up.

“Our aim is to help our community and give them something back,” says Mandeep Singh, who owns three Singh’s Premier stores in Sheffield with his brothers, twins Vrinder and Baljeet. “We believe that we have a responsibility to help.”

Of course, many retailers claim to be at the heart of their community, but the Singhs’ reputation for their good work really does precede them. Even the taxi driver who drops Convenience Store at the Singh’s Teynham Road site is quick to tells us ‘they’re good guys’.

Winner

Community Retailer of the Year

Singh’s Premier was crowned Community Retailer of the Year at the 2016 Convenience Retail Awards in March. Steve O’Neill, group marketing director of PayPoint, says: “We’ve been proud sponsors of the Community Retailer of the Year Award at this event for many years and it continues to recognise the hugely important role local convenience stores play in their communities. We know that, as well as managing busy businesses, many retailers are very involved in their communities. Singh’s Premier is a shining example of the impact retailers can have on their community.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “We have a special relationship with Mandeep; he has a lot of credibility in the community,” says Paul Howard, community liason manager at Parkview School. “The school and the shop are 50 yards from each other so it’s often the first and last place the kids go on their way to and from school. It is a key part of their world.”

He explains that staff refuse to serve kids after 8.45am as that’s when they need to be in school. “Mandeep keeps an eye on them and stops them getting carried away buying too many energy drinks, and he reports back to me if he has seen anyone being bullied or causing a nuisance,” says Howard.

The Singhs also actively work with the school on numerous initatives.

“We’re in a part of the city with money and wellbeing issues,” says Howard. “Mandeep offered us an opportunity to support healthy eating and pupils’ school attendance by providing a number of kids with fresh fruit and breakfast cereals.

“He also provides shop vouchers to hand out for good attendance and equipment for our fitness suite.”

As well as donating hockey equipment, weights and sports kits to the school gym, the Singhs have hired a personal trainer who also educates the children on the importance of healthy eating.

In addition, Mandeep recently gave up his time to mentor the Year 10 and 11 business studies classes. “We are constantly looking for more ways that we can integrate with our community,” he says. “Mentoring involves giving time to the students so I can help to educate them regarding running a business and they have the opportunity to ask any questions. The feedback that we received from the school is great and it’s something that we will continue going forward.”

The Singhs also take students on work experience placements. “It’s not easy to get good placements around here, but I know I can always rely on Mandeep,” says Howard.

The business is also well known in the community for its fun days and charity fund-raisers, having helped numerous groups, including Macmillan Cancer Support and Comic Relief, as well as those closer to home.

Jason Hollins, who runs Kids Together Club (KTC) - a charity that enables soft play areas to be hired exclusively for disabled children - is full of praise for the brothers. “We’ve worked with the Singhs for the past four years. They’ve helped with anything and everything.”

Last summer the team decided to celebrate Independents Day with a nod to American superheroes, the twins dressing up as Batman and the Joker, while Mandeep donned an Incredible Hulk costume. “We had a great day with loads of our customers coming down to support us,” says Mandeep.

“We gave away hot dogs and milkshakes and made a great deal of it on social media. This really made us feel part of the community and our shoppers were talking about it for weeks.”

The group invited Hollins to set up a stand at the fun day event, enabling him to raise £300 for his charity.

This is just one of the many ways in which the stores have helped KTC. Hollins explains that the twins donated 150 books for a book sale, and Herries Road store manager and former sales assistant of the year category winner Trish Johnson made buns for the kids’ Christmas party.

“The Singhs always say ‘If there’s anything you need, come to us’,” says Hollins. “They’ve helped us so much and the local community as a whole. They don’t just help our charity, they help everybody.”

The Singh’s Community Panel, which donates £1,000 a year to different causes, is a key example of this. Launched in 2010, the panel comprises 12 customers and is chaired by Trish. The group meet four times a year to decide who will receive that quarter’s £250 donation.

Last year the team held a trolley dash at their Teynham Road store. Everyone who liked the trolley dash post on the group’s Facebook page was entered into a draw to win. The competition was an overwhelming success and receiving over 800 likes!

Regular customer Ann Luff won the dash and was given 60 seconds to race around the store collecting as many items as she could. In typical Singh’s style, the boys invited the local community to join in the fun and got suppliers on board, with Yorkshire Tea and Monster offering tastings.

They also gave out free sausage rolls for the local school kids, who came to watch. And, as with all their events, the Singhs posted photos of the trolley dash on Facebook so that their 13,000+ followers could join in.

“The trolley dash was fantastic,” says Ann. “I managed to get £200-worth of stuff and Booker and Mandeep doubled it.

“I donated it all to a women’s charity and the Singhs then stayed in touch with them. Whenever they’re short of tea and biscuits, Mandeep runs them down supplies.”

Ann claims that their community focus extends to taking care of the elderly. “All the staff are on first-name terms with their customers,” she says. “When weather is bad they phone the pensioners up and bring their shopping to their homes - even if people haven’t got the money to pay them. They’ll also call up elderly people who haven’t been in for their regular paper to check that they’re okay.

“It’s just in their nature to help the community; their moral compass is embedded in them,” she adds. “People come to the store for the offers, but they’ll also come in to see Vrinder’s new baby. They make you feel part of the family.”

Mandeep claims that the results of the group’s community work aren’t always tangible, but that it brings great long-term benefits. “We don’t try to measure any of our community or charity work in terms of sales uplift or in cash terms,” he says. “The goodwill we get from our customers and the community spirit is the benefit to our business.”

Howard claims that the Singh’s shops are vital to the community. “They have a value that you can’t underestimate,” he says. “I can’t praise Mandeep and his team highly enough.”

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