Sunita Aggarwal, Spar Wigston, Leicestershire
Nilesh Patel, Nil’s Convenience Store, Hainault, Redbridge, London
Serge Khunkhun, One Stop Woodcross, Wolverhampton, West Midlands
Shital Patel, Jimmy’s Store, Northampton
Daniall Nadeem, Spar Motherwell Road, North Lanarkshire, Scotland
Girish Jeeva, two Premier stores, Glasgow, Scotland
Nilesh: “Costs are rising so we will need to look at our margins for next year and it’ll be interesting to see how many shops are going to survive in 2024. We need more support when it comes to energy contracts, too many of us are caught in expensive ones and there needs to be a way out of them. There has been some good news around business rates which is some help but not a lot.”
Sunita: “I think that the biggest challenge in 2024 will be covering all of our costs, particularly with both the cost of living and staff wages going up. It’s an everyday challenge for us.”
Shital: I think 2024 is going to be a little bit tougher for retailers with the cost of everything rising.
Serge: “The cost-based pressure still remains and for a lot of the smaller retailers in particular, getting to grips with your costs is going to be crucial.
Daniall: ”The biggest challenge for 2024 is that we’re going to have rising costs. We also have national living wage going up as well, so that’s going to be eating into profit.”
Reduced shopper budgets
Serge: “Inflationary pressure on food pricing has definitely slowed down somewhat so we now we seem to have stabilised quite a bit and we’re settling into a new norm.
“I don’t think we’re going to see those massive price rises that we saw this year but for shoppers there’s definitely still a hangover of the cost of living crisis going on and the amount of free cash available at the moment is still noticeably a little bit less than it used to be.”
“I think suppliers need to put a bit more effort into how they can get the product from their warehouses into our stores as cheaply as possible and as easily and efficiently as possible.
Daniall: “I recently had a conversation with someone about the rise in cigarettes and how they’re tightening up their budget and it’s not allowing them to spend the rest on the grocery items or even the odd treat here and there that they used to buy.”
Girish: ”I think the whole thing about banning the vapes is going to be a bit of struggle because I think that’s one of the biggest part of the margins where a lot of our profit comes in. Where we are losing out in other places with prices going up for the groceries and drinks and all that kind of stuff, I feel like this [vaping] is where we are able to survive and make our money to pay our bills like electricity bills and maintain all the cost for that. It will be very difficult if they were to ban that.”
Sunita: ”We’re working with a lot of suppliers, we’ve had productive meetings with some of them which has been positive. By speaking with them, we can help them realise the problems we’re facing everyday, if suppliers can get that and appreciate the work that we’re doing, then we can have a better relationship work that works both ways.”
Serge: “I think from a retailer point of view, independent retailers are going to struggle being truly independent and I think everyone needs to get their head around the fact that if you can’t beat them, you’ve got to join them. For some that means going from independent into symbol; going from symbol into franchise and so on. I think there is a conversation piece that we really, really need to get our independent retailers to think about very carefully. I changed from symbol to franchise and am now getting a proper delivered solution coming in. It saves me on average 20 working hours a week which is 20 hours that you can invest back into working in the store or working on the business whichever way you want to do it.
Daniall: ”I’m most excited about my new partnership with Spar and hopefully I’ll get a few more sites under my belt now and go further with Spar and develop more as the retailer, as well as developing my estate. We are investing in refrigeration and we’re trying to make the stores as sustainable as possible.”
Daniall: “My new year’s resolution is to grow my business and further grow my home delivery business side of things, as a retailer we are constantly looking to move forward and try not go in the opposite direction.”
Serge: “We have a finite number of customers that come into our stores. So, to get that reach going out, we’re going have to embrace the delivery platforms that are out there.”
Sunita: “In 2024, I’m going to try delivery in my store. I know a lot of people did it through Covid-19 and it worked really well and then it died down again but it’s something on my list to do next year.
Shital: “One thing I’d like to try next year is home delivery - we tried in the past but it didn’t really work out because people wanted to come into the store. But I want to try it again to bring in new customers.”
Staff and shopper engagement
Shital: “I’d like to get more involved with the staff and customers to have more meetings with them and get more feedback from customers about what we should be doing.
“I’m also looking to see how we can improve our social media pages. We want to try and connect with a younger audience and this is the best way to do it. There are some retailers that are really hot on it and then there’s some that just sitting in the background like me. I think we’re missing out on an opportunity to reach more shoppers with it.”
Girish: “We want to spend more time with our team this year. We want to plan more nights out and give them a reward for what they’re doing - if we have a performance [target] and then if we achieve that then we all go out.”
Girish: We are looking forward to the Convenience Awards in 2024. This is the first time that we will be attending. It’s really fun to go to awards. You meet new retailers and you recognize the hard work you and the other retailers put in and you can learn from them, see what they’re doing differently and how you can make your business better by implementing what they’re doing. And it’s a fun night out!