In today’s cut-throat retail environment, the fight for survival is relentless. You can either allow your business to slide downwards, or take control and look for ways to evolve. C-Store spoke to some of the country’s most progressive independent retailers to find out how they have adapted, and the following pages feature 21 ideas they have developed to come out of the downturn on top


Buy pricemarked products

“I increased the number of pricemarked products that I sold at the beginning of 2012, and sales and footfall both increased as a result.
It has also played a big part in boosting consumer confidence in my store, and I think in convenience stores in general. In the recession people need to be reassured that they are getting a good deal and pricemarked packs do that.”

Anjali Karpal, Anjalika’s East Grinstead, West Sussex

Increase promotions


“We’ve been concentrating on appealing to everyone, not just the most affluent of our customers, but also those on a budget. We introduced offers in addition to Budgens’ set promotions. We started to negotiate with our existing suppliers so that if we agree to increase volumes, then they will give us a better price for them. We’ve been running successful deals on premium products such as local meats and fish. The promotion mix has increased by between 7% and 10% year on year.”

David Knight, Knight’s Budgens Of Hassocks, West Sussex

Communicate value

“I use point-of-sale labelling, local advertising and talking with customers to communicate value. It’s been key throughout the recession and will continue to be so in 2013. I’ll be shouting about it loudly to keep up momentum so that shoppers can see value for money in every category.”

Rav Garcha, four Nisa Local stores in the West Midlands

Sell £1 products

Jai Singh

“Customers are shopping smarter because times are hard, so we have been stocking branded products priced at £1. We initially had them all together on a pound shelf, but we’ve gradually dispersed the pound products back to their original categories. We still flag them up as being £1, but this way shoppers are encouraged to shop the whole store, rather than just heading to one area.”

Jai Singh, Singh’s Premier, Sheffield

Round the prices of products you want to sell through

“Rounding product prices and labelling them with price flashes can increase sales, even if the product is more expensive than it was originally. We found that only wines on promotion were selling, so I rounded the prices of 10 red and 10 white wines and used red stickers to ensure that they stood out. Rounding the product prices meant that some were made cheaper, and some more expensive, but they are all selling well so far. It’s a good way of kick-starting sales of products that would otherwise gather dust.”

Roli Ranger, Londis Ascot, Berkshire



Surprise your shoppers

“While it’s important to be consistent when it comes to customer service, it’s good to surprise your shoppers. We’ve done this by adding new lines and services and bringing in attention-grabbing promotions. This encourages shoppers to buy on impulse and keeps the shopping experience fresh and interesting for them, which in turn is good for you.”

Kevin Broughton, Broughton’s News, Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire


“It’s not a new idea, but one that can be really effective when done properly. We decided to create a real point of difference from the Sainsbury’s down the road by stocking a wide range of local products from within a 30-mile radius of the shop, and we have a mobile shop that delivers to surrounding villages. We also introduced more products that the supermarkets can’t get their hands on, such as unusual fish varieties like Mahi Mahi and Baramundi. Customers have snapped them up.”

Peter Lamb, Lambs Larder, Bells Yew Green, East Sussex

Focus on your strengths

Dan Cock

Local produce

“It’s very easy in this business to become distracted and to digress into lots of other things, and if the recession has taught me one thing then it’s the need to adopt a back-to-basics approach. You have to focus on the things that you know you are good at: your key strengths of location, service and opening hours. For us, focusing on local products while maintaining great availability and service has been a winning strategy.”

Dan Cock, Whitstone Stores, Holsworthy, Devon

Make an effort to focus on seasonal displays

“We had strong Christmas confectionery sales because we remerchandised the products better than we ever had before. We ensured that the product was highlighted well in-store, and that each item had the correct POS material. It’s very easy on the first day you put up the display, but as time goes on gaps can appear on shelf and signs can slip off. I put a dedicated member of staff in charge of our seasonal displays to ensure that they are looking their best at all times.”

Andrew Porter, Eurospar Creightons of Finaghy, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Talk to your peers

“Talking to other retailers is really important. I speak to one of my friends who owns a store every morning and we’ll swap ideas. For example, he’s recommended a good milk supplier. Some independents are still keeping their ideas to themselves, which is unfortunate. You aren’t giving anything away to your competitors by talking to other independents, and it can help you to improve your store.”

Kalpesh Parmar, Parmar Trading, Totton, Hampshire (Best-One)

Stand out

Bruce and Donna Morgan

Bruce and Donna Morgan invested £100,000 in a refit

“You have to stand out from the crowd if you want to remain competitive, and that means you need to keep investing in your store and improving. We invested £100,000 in a full refit, which has meant we were able to compete against a new Sainsbury’s Local which opened nearby and steal their thunder.”

Donna Morgan, Brownlies of Biggar (Best-One), Edinburgh

Enter awards

“Entering awards is really important. It focuses your business, focuses your staff, and forces you to keep on raising your standards. Last year we won the Best Customer Service Award at the Convenience Retail Awards, and this year we have put ourselves forward for the Responsible Retailer Award.”

Linda and Dennis Williams, Premier Broadway, Edinburgh



Keep in touch with your customers

“I’ve always made a point of spending lots of time on the shop floor so that I get to know customers by name. We always ask them how we can improve and if there are any other products they’d like to see on shelf. When we decided to add a beauty salon to the store, we ended up locating it in the basement level because customers told us that they wanted privacy.”

Makhan Sunner, City Spices, Stourbridge, West Midlands

Make the shopper journey easier

recipe cards

“People are shopping little and often, so value is a key word, but you also need to think about meal solutions. We have used recipe cards on different days of the week to encourage people to pick up several items at once. Shopping needs to be easy, so grouping meal solution items together helps.”

Sunder Sander, Londis, Oxford and Leamington Spa

Build links with your community

Litter picking

“You’ve got to engage with local people. We organised a village litter pick with members of the community a couple of months back, and we’ve also raised £350 for people affected by local flooding. You have to keep your eyes open for opportunities to connect with people.”

Clive Sheppard, Spar Magdalen Road, Exeter

Buy staff uniforms

“It’s worth investing in staff uniform. In the recession shoppers seek out brands and products that they can trust and I think that having a professional-looking staff uniform appeals to this sense. Last year for the first time I invested in a uniform for my staff. It’s just a simple black T-shirt with the store name and logo in red and yellow on the back, but it’s gone down really well with shoppers. It’s also great for marketing as when the staff are out and about in the town before or after work, shoppers will see the branding and think of us. It’s great for raising our profile.”

Bal Cheema, Avenue Food & Wine Store (Xtra Local), Sheerness , Kent

Educate staff about promotions

“We’re encouraging staff to tell customers about bargains in store. If they only have one product in their basket and it’s on BOGOF, then staff will tell them and have leaflets on hand ready to explain how the deal works. Customers like to be told about a bargain.”

Saki Ghafoor, two Nisa stores in Northumberland



Ask suppliers for help

“I’ve learned not to be shy about asking suppliers and my symbol group for support. When I refitted my store, I contacted as many suppliers as possible to see how they could help out and it really cut the cost of the refit. You have to try to save money for cash flow wherever you can.”
Manga Pawar, Londis Reading, Berkshire

Ease cash flow by reducing stock

John Ward

John Ward monitors his stock levels closely to optimise cash flow

“Since the recession we’ve become a lot more careful when it comes to ordering stock. We order little and often to ensure that we’re not left with too much unsold stock. Of course, you can’t be too negative about stock levels as there’s nothing worse than having empty shelves in a store, but you have to balance it carefully. Take advantage of your wholesaler’s delivery options and use every piece of epos data available to you to ensure that you tread that fine line.”

John Perrett & John Ward, Hunnyhill Group, Spar, Isle Of Wight



Be more efficient by reducing waste

“We used to have five dustbins for rubbish. Now we have one for general waste and have a compressor for cardboard. We have found a company that will pay us to collect the cardboard.”

Ramesh Shingadia, Londis Southwater, West Sussex

Invest in energy-efficient lighting

Going green

“I spent last year trying to save energy and getting running costs down. I have switched to LED lighting in both stores, which cost £4,000. My energy usage has dropped substantially and I’m hoping to make the money back in a year and a half.”

Dee Sedani, Londis, Derbyshire