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Becoming an award winning retailer - BK Stores

In October 2016, Blakemore hosted its second annual Retailer of the Year awards, an opportunity to reward its customers for stellar retailing achievement. One retailer that performed particularly well, picking up three awards was BK Stores, a Bmorelocal… based in Immingham, Lincolnshire. The brothers in charge, Pardeep and Randeep Sarkaria, have taken bold steps in the last 18 months to improve their business including investing in a brand new fascia, store layout and EPoS system (ShopMate). We visited the store and brothers to find out how these investments have paid off, and learn how the Sarkarias turned their business into an award-winning store.

When they took over the business from their father, they set themselves the challenge of increasing store turnover year on year. To achieve this, they freshened up the fascia, range and layout as well as maintaining the good business practices put in place by their father. As a result, store turnover is up significantly, and their wholesaler, Blakemore, has recognised the brothers for their achievement with three awards including Retailer of the Year. Here are three important lessons they learnt that led to this great achievement.

1. Take Risks

Improving a business often involves a leap of faith. In the case of the Sarkaria brothers, several leaps into the unknown were required to make the improvements necessary to their business. The first was to choose a relatively new fascia for their business, A F Blakemore’s Bmorelocal…

promotional stand with a close up on a shop shelf edge
"We were the first in our area, so there were no stores to visit. We looked at concept drawings and worked with our rep, Dave, to get an idea of what to expect.’ Pardeep Sarkaria.
The risk ultimately paid off, as the shop looks impressive both inside and out. The new fascia stands out in the local area, and upon entering the shop, the presentation is clean and modern with a layout that is easy to navigate. Even with several customers in the shop, it never felt cluttered or too busy, with plenty of space to browse. The Blakemore team also worked with Pardeep and Randeep to tailor a range that would best meet the unique challenges of the store for the best possible shopping experience.

Once the new range was selected and merchandised, the brothers decided to invest in technology to help them manage stock and track sales. They selected The Retail Data Partnership’s ShopMate EPoS system, provided as part of Blakemore’s EPoS for Data agreement. As well as the basics, their EPoS system allows the brothers to maintain prices, order from Blakemore electronically and keep on top of store performance with a variety of intuitive reports.

Since installing the till the brothers have been impressed with how easy it is to use and how much time they save on administrative tasks. They’re now looking to manage their stock with handheld peripherals and ordering all of their stock electronically from Blakemore.

2. Turn Limitations into Strengths

When the Sarkaria brothers set their business target, they were acutely aware of the limitations of their local area.

"The shop is located on a housing estate. We don’t get a lot of passing trade, the only people who visit us live here. Our footfall numbers are limited by the number of people living here. – Pardeep Sarkaria
With this in mind, the brothers decided to focus on basket size as a means of increasing turnover. To do this, they enlisted the help of David Pope, their Blakemore Business Development Manager.
"Pardeep and Randeep were most interested in getting each customer to spend more. When we set up their new fascia, we also looked at user experience, putting in place a layout that encouraged shoppers to explore and spend a little more each trip.’ – David Pope
Also, the brothers considered the financial profile of their shoppers, deciding to focus on competitive prices and a good range of value products.
"Throughout the shop, you’ll find Lifestyle Value products. These are cheaper alternatives to branded goods and very popular with our customers. – Randeep Sarkaria.
So far this year, as a result of the smart strategies put in place, the Sarkaria brothers have reported dramatic increases in turnover.
3. Work with Suppliers

This year’s awards aren’t the first for the Sarkaria brothers. Last year BK Stores won Blakemore’s Retailer of the Year for Grimsby, and since then Pardeep and Randeep have had their eyes on bigger and better achievements, namely the Blakemore Retailer of the Year for the whole of the UK.

They approached their Blakemore Business Development Manager, David Pope to find out more about the criteria for the awards and the steps they would need to take to be short-listed. Many of these, such as community engagement, were already part of their day-to-day business. Social activities such as football team sponsorships, community outreach and charity collections are an important part of retailing, and many retailers already do this.

"We went to see other award winning retailers to find out what they were doing to be so successful. Much of it, we were already doing ourselves, it was just a matter of shouting about it.’ – Pardeep Sarkaria.
After putting the spotlight on all the good things the brothers were doing with BK Stores, Blakemore awarded them the regional Retailer of the Year Award for Grimsby, Best Own Brand Compliance and the coveted Retailer of the Year Award.

BK Stores and the Sarkaria brothers prove that award winning retailers aren’t born. They are made through hard work, smart business decisions and a willingness to experiment and take risks. This ethos has influenced their plans for the future, as the team are investing in events for the community over the festive period and exploring options for improving shopper loyalty even further.

The next year looks to be an exciting time for BK Stores, and we look forward to seeing what further improvements and awards on are on the horizon.

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