Supersave Convenience Store is situated in the centre of a row of shops on a busy road in the suburbs outside Reading. There is some free short-term parking at the front, which, during my visit, was full to bursting. The store is expertly run by Alpesh Patel who kindly agreed to meet with me during a busy afternoon at his other, town centre, Post Office. The store generally caters for local shoppers – many of whom live in the local housing estates. Additionally, there is a medical centre at the end of the road and nearby Reading University whose students live locally. The staff are a cheerful team who clearly know their customers personally and have a great rapport with them.
Income levels in the area are generally pretty low – but this doesn’t mean that the store isn’t busy. Quite the opposite, the lower income generally means people can’t do bulk shops in larger stores out of town and rely more on SuperSave for their essential items. They’re price conscious and so the grocery lines stocked by the store are price marked. Reassuring shoppers that they are offered the best price. In contrast to a more affluent demographic, the residents visit more frequently and are more inclined to make impulse purchases.
The store is clearly popular, despite competition from a larger, independent, supermarket next door. The supermarket was somewhat disorganised, with some empty shelves. Patel’s store benefits from a recent refit with clear and considered merchandising. The main counter greets shoppers on the left-hand side of the entry, with a clear display of alcohol behind, opening into ambient wine and beer shelving and a chilled wine and beer fridge. Frozen food follows, and then a small area dedicated to toiletries and essentials.
The store has a busy post office at the rear which clearly brings in custom. While I observed, all the customers visited Mrs Patel at the post office counter before shopping in the store.To the right-hand side of the main door is a new Refresh@Premier section with a hot drinks machine, two Hershey’s Freeze flavours and two Jolly Rancher Slushy options. This section is a considerable investment for the store. Mr Patel advises other retailers to ensure they know their customer base will appreciate this sort of offering and to take into account the cost of the gas, especially considering the current price increases. He hopes to see the benefits this Summer. The staff told me that the slushys are popular with students, who like to add a shot to their drinks when they take them home. The Hersheys lines seem to be popular with local school children.
The store carries a fruit and vegetable display, that was invitingly fresh and full during my visit, a bakery, sandwiches, and a large selection of soft drinks, chilled and ambient. A centre console displays impulse and promotions on the front end, then groceries, confectionery and crisps on the sides.
Alpesh Patel has run this store, and now three others, for 20 years, open for 365 days a year. He says he has personally known many of his customers since they visited his store as children – it’s a real community hub. He is the president of the Reading division of the NRFN (Federation of Independent Retailers). In all his stores he has chosen to partner with ShopMate for EPoS for the quality of the hardware, lovely, friendly support and issue-free price files. His top tip for other retailers is to learn how to delegate to managers in their stores and to build trust with their teams. “To run a successful business you have to make sure staff are accountable for their work because you can’t do it all yourself – all the same, it’s hard work!” he says.