After a four-year wait, Jane and Mike Clarke finally launched their newly built Spar shop on the Oxford public just before Christmas. A planning hold-up at the council meant the couple had extra time for planning and strategy. But everything went to plan on opening day, December 15. "It was a bit hectic," admits Mike. "BT was two weeks' late putting the phones in, which had implications for our EPoS system. We hadn't a phone link, so all the data had to be downloaded to a neighbouring shop and put on a floppy disk ­ it was a pain, but it worked." The hitch meant their shop couldn't put credit card transactions through for a week until the phones were installed. Mike says most customers were understanding, but he's now trying to get compensation from BT. Despite these teething troubles, the pair have already managed to meet their target weekly turnover of £20,000 and have set their sights higher for the next few months. The store was pretty busy at Christmas, according to Mike, a trend which continued into the new year. As he expected, most customers are coming from the local housing estate rather than outside the area, and the customers are a cross-section, from young families to OAPs. "Business has been so brisk we're not thinking of doing any more advertising at the moment," says Mike. Confectionery proved one of the most popular categories especially over Christmas. But the Clarkes are still tweaking the ranges as they get customer reaction. "This week we're ordering some fresh meat ­ a basic range of prepacked chops and steaks ­ we think people will like it." The hot food counter is very successful, both at breakfast and lunchtime, especially with schoolchildren. However it is very labour intensive because a member of staff needs to operate it at all times. "Cuisine de France has come in and talked to people a couple of times about running it, which has helped." The Clarkes now have their full quota of 10 staff who are all working out well. But opening a new store has meant long days for the couple who were starting work at 5am and not finishing until 10pm for a while after Christmas. Phone trouble and long hours aside, Mike reckons four years was worth the wait. "People have been very impressed, and we're both really pleased with the look of the store and the way things have gone." {{FEATURES }}