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LOCAL LEADS THE WAY; Paul Singh's Simply Fresh store on the outskirts of Stratford-upon-Avon is seeing weekly turnover rise thanks to a focus on local and organic produce.

Byline: CHRISTIAN FULLER

As the local residents of Stratfordupon-Avon pass by Dave Singh's Simply Fresh store, the inviting floral exterior appears to do its job, as customers descend on the blossoming store.

"Our flower range outside the front of the store is not just a chance for us to sell, but good for the look of the store," says Dave.

"When people drive past, we hope that the flowers will make them consider stopping next time they come past, as they will remember how good it looks. And then once they are in the store, the products keep them shopping here."

The bedding plants, potted plants and hanging f lower baskets are all local, and local is area Dave puts a big focus on, along with organic.

"All of our f lowers and plants are from local growers and are seasonal - we change our ranges for summer, spring and so on, as we know people around here want that. The flowers themselves are priced low and we only keep a little margin, but we shift a lot and it is a welcome and inviting look to the store front. We sell flowers all year round and they sell out extremely quickly. If you come on a Monday, there will be none left as I restock them every Thursday and they are gone by then."

The theme continues upon entering the 1,800sq ft Warwickshire store. "The wood work at the front and around the store, wooden flooring inside and the display units just add to the organic feel. People who walk past get the feeling of organic just by looking at the store. It is beautiful to look at from the outside and makes people wonder what else is inside."

Another priority for Dave is customer service. "If the customers are happy, then we are doing something right and everything is good. All the staffwe employ are trained and the first thing they are told is how important our customer service is."

He and his staffare always looking to go the extra mile and it seems to be paying off. "While we don't officially offer home deliveries, if a customer buys a lot of plants or a does big shop and cannot get it into their car, we will deliver. It is more of a polite favour than a service we provide and we never charge for that sort of thing. But if it means they are happy, so am I."

His strategy seems to be paying off. "Our average weekly turnover is constantly increasing, so I'd suggest we are doing something right. Every time a customer comes in, they always tell somebody new about the store. They tell their family or friends, and then they come in and it means we are selling to more people than ever before. "Every day we have at least one new customer come into the store. They always tell us how beautiful the store is and that they will be back again. They'll go home and tell somebody else about the experience they had here and that is how we grow. It is just word of mouth."

While customer service takes priority now, a store expansion and refurbishment some four years ago saw the store triple in size, and has been the driving force behind the increased sales and footfall.

"This store not only used to be very small, but it also used to be very quiet. In the past five years it has had small changes, but the big one was four years ago. Before we expanded the store, the store was about 600sq ft."

Dave explains that prior to the refit, the basket spend and footfall were unsurprisingly smaller, so he's more than happy he took the decision to expand.

The early morning buzz of customers shows no signs of slowing down as a stream of new customers enter the store in search of local goods.

"We put all our local products at the front of the store. All the produce such as vegetables, meat, plants are local," Dave says. "We have a great connection with the local growers, makers and providers and it is all within a small distance from the store.

"People around this area like local, fresh products at good prices, and that is what we provide - that is what makes us different to others.

"All of our meat is from a local butcher, the family-run Barry The Butcher in Stratfordupon-Avon, not far from the store. We made sure our signage and merchandising made it clear that the meat is local and customers have come to know that it is from the local butchers.

"The butchers get it ready in the morning each day, then deliver it in the early afternoon every single day of the week. You cannot get any fresher than that. The prices STORE FACTS Simply Fresh, Stratford-upon-Avon Store size: 1,800sq ft Key products: Local and organic Staffing: four part-time; three full-time Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 7am-9pm are cheap, too, which of course entices more customers."

The nearby Fatherson Bakery provides breads and cakes, while alcohol also has its share of local lines. "Within our alcohol range, we offer a variety of local ales, gins and craft beers, and we have seen sales increase since we started offering those local alternatives.

"Our customers tell us how much they like the local products, which is great as that is the majority of what we offer."

Within the alcohol category, wine plays a key role. "Within the Stratford-upon-Avon area, the majority of people are wine drinkers as this area is a little bit posher than others. Our alcohol prices overall are competitive, but within the wine category they are even more so compared with the supermarkets."

Wines range from PS2.99 Echo Falls up to over PS20 a bottle, he says - and, of course, they are sold chilled and ready to drink, along with multipacks of beer stored in fridges. Dave says: "In a lot of other stores, you cannot get the chilled offering of beers. Our customers know we have multipack beers in the chillers, which is another reason we are slightly different."

Spirits are also in demand. "The elderly people buy a lot of spirits. We have seen a big trend towards gin in recent times, which I am sure all retailers are seeing. We do about 20 different types of gin at the moment - traditional gins for those who want it, but we offer rhubarb gin, strawberry gin, summer fruit gin - they are all good sellers."

In line with the healthy eating trend across the industry, Dave ensures his store is well stocked with wholesome alternatives for those who want them, whether that is those looking for organic alternatives or those with special dietary requirements.

"Across the whole store, we offer a range of organic products for health-conscious consumers, and products for vegans, gluten-free customers and so on. It continues to sell in high volumes and we so continue to stock it."

So there are organic nuts and seeds from Good Food, Just Natural and Crazy Jack, and organic alternatives in crisps, too. "We have organic brands at the front of the store because we know are customers will be looking for them." He says gluten-free and vegan crisps "are flying offthe shelves". "On average, we normally have about 10 different sorts of glutenfree crisps - all in different flavours. "We also have an amazing range of expensive gluten-free and vegan pasta sauces which are customers love - all alongside the mainstream sauces as well - and they all sell well. People of all ages are caring more about their health than they ever have. You must stock the alternatives for vegans and those who are gluten-free."

With his eye on the health trends and a local focus that sets him apart from the rest, Dave's Simply Fresh store looks like its success will continue for some time to come.

"People around this area like local, fresh products at good prices, and that is what we provide - that is what makes us different to others. All of our meat is from a local butcher. ""The elderly people buy a lot of spirits. We do about 20 different types of gin - traditional gins for those who want it, but we offer rhubarb gin, strawberry gin, summer fruit gin - they are all good sellers "

CAPTION(S):

Locally sourced plants do well all year, usually selling out by the time fresh weekly deliveries arrive on a Thursday

While frozen isn't a key category for Dave, the introduction of the Gourmade range has seen sales increase rapidly

Organic seeds, nuts and dried fruits are meeting demand from health-conscious, vegan or gluten-free customers

Alcohol sales have increased since Dave introduced locally sourced ales, gins and craft beers to the range

A vibrant display of fruit and vegetables gives customers an 'organic' feel when entering the store

Dave says he puts a big onus on customer service, with stafftraining an

important part of this

Products from the local Fatherson Bakery are displayed on attractive wooden tables
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Convenience Store
Date:Sep 6, 2019
Words:1515
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