Few would argue that running a convenience store is an effective remedy for stress. But that is exactly how Mohammad and Farhana Saleem saw it when they gave up successful but stressful careers in law and retail to set up their own convenience store business in Isleworth, Middlesex.
“We had been trying to start a family, and after five years of working in stressful careers we decided to give it all up and find a way of working together,” says Mohammad.
It took them almost a year to find the perfect combination of the right premises for a 2,700 sq ft convenience store - a converted old cinema in Isleworth - and a willing symbol group in the form of Nisa-Today’s.
The store, which Nisa-Today’s has chosen as a flagship for various innovations under its Nisa Innovation Plus scheme, has been open for less than a month - yet it is set to reach its predicted sales targets a quarter in advance. This is as much a testimony to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Saleems as it is to Nisa-Today’s innovation.
The couple spent a lot of time working out the layout of the store and researched other convenience formats before deciding on their blueprint. “Some had the aisles running lengthways and others widthways when you enter the store. We had concerns with both. Some made the store feel smaller, and other styles made security more of an issue, so we used a combination of both methods,” says Mohammad.
With Nisa-Today’s on board, the Saleems could begin to turn their vision into reality. “We had a lot of ideas about what we wanted to do with the store so we wanted to find someone who could be flexible, and luckily Nisa-Today’s was very enthusiastic about our plans,” he says.
One of the most striking design effects as you enter the store is the colourful eye-catching category headers, which neatly separate the grocery areas. The large-font category signage, differentiated by distinctive pastel colours, helps shoppers navigate the store quickly.
Mirrored surfacing is used throughout the store to add to the sense of space and light. The store has a particularly large fresh food section, which includes a wider range of fruit and vegetables than many convenience formats, as well as a fresh bread section.
There is also a frozen food area and an extensive chilled section, which includes a selection of packaged fresh meat as well as dairy products.
One of the key elements the Saleems introduced to the layout was a corner L-shaped till, so that staff could have the best view of all areas of the store, thereby improving security. Crucially, it is close to the alcohol and confectionery sections, which are the areas staff most need to keep an eye on.
The Saleems were keen to ensure the store offered as much variety to customers as possible, while remaining within the confines of a smaller grocery retail format.
Customers can use baskets or small trolleys to do their shopping, and they can also purchase non-food items such as DVDs and video and computer games.
“We became pretty realistic about who our customers were and, while we knew that people weren’t going to come here to do a £200 shop, we wanted to offer as much variety as we could,” he says.
Nisa-Today’s additions include modern floor tiles, which have a combination of matt and gloss surfaces to add interest to the overall appearance, and new-look lighting fixtures that include spotlights carefully angled over the grocery shelves.
Curved display units on the gondola ends were also areas of consideration.
It is the first Nisa store to use the OCS broadband ordering system, which Saleem has ensured all his staff are trained to use.
Although the store has only been open a month, the Saleems are already seeing the benefits to family life - they have also celebrated the birth of their first child.
Their success has made the bank more willing to invest in future growth and they are already thinking about ‘phase 2’ of the Isleworth store - as well as planning the next store to add to their portfolio.