In the first of a new series of articles for The Grocer, business guru and presenter of BBC TV programme All Over the Shop Geoff Burch visits a Londis convenience store in Leamington spa to give it his best makeover

 In fact, if you want the recipe for a perfect convenience store, Sunder's has it. It's clean, bright and airy with a super range of stock, and has similarly bright and airy staff. "Oh Heavens," I think. "Clearly, Sunder is a better grocer than I can ever be".

Then I meet him. A great big cheery Midlander with a ready smile and a true full-time passion for his business. A bright lad too. Years ago, he was all set for the glittering prize of a degree in electronics from Manchester University but his Dad fell ill and could no longer run the small second-hand shop that kept the family.

The second-hand business was dying on its feet anyway, what with the likes of car boot sales, so Sunder decided groceries were the way to go. With the help of an uncle and some borrowed shop units, he trundled around the farms and markets buying fresh local produce and selling at competitive prices. (Mention duck eggs and he gets a wistful look in his eyes, saying "Mmm, duck eggs..." in the same way Homer Simpson says "Mmm, beer...")

The business grew, Sunder became a Londis award-winner and a couple of years ago embarked on a £100,000 refit, which trebled the size of the store.

So, here I am, chatting to him and really liking the guy, but where can things be improved? Well, there is an old business joke that states: 'When you are up to your backside in alligators, it's very hard to remember you set out to drain a swamp.' In plain terms: a stranger - however stupid - can often spot the obvious mistakes.

One of the tricks in my TV series was to take shopkeepers to successful or bigger businesses to see if they could nick any ideas - sorry, do some 'benchmarking'. "When did you last visit Tesco?" I ask Sunder. "I never go there," he replies. This is the first time I see him wrong-footed. 

Now I'm feeling more confident. "Sunder, has the credit crunch crunched you?"

"Of course," he concedes. "Sales are good, but they have been better. There are just as many customers but they don't use their credit cards for treats and extravagances."

So, do I have any advice for him?

Yes. Bite the bullet and visit Tesco. Sunder's shop is good but he doesn't have any over-aisle signage, and he is missing a trick by not having teaser products hanging along the aisles, as the multiples do.

I bet, with his excellent eye for business, he would come back from his visit to Tesco with hundreds more ideas.

He could harness his team's clear enthusiasm and show them some selling skills to get them flogging the extras, add-on and link products. Don't forget, 5% on each purchase can add 100% to the profit.

He should also view the store with a stranger's eye. How does it catch the eye of a passing motorist? What does it look like from the far side of the road? I have to say that it looks better from the inside.

Here's a final thought. What is the future for 'convenience' stores if all they offer is convenience? Are they a small imitation of supermarkets that can charge a premium because they're handy, or can they persuade shoppers to meet all their needs by shopping daily? If the latter is the case, maybe smaller pack sizes should be offered - perhaps loose potatoes and not just four-kilo bags. Or how about loose eggs?

Sunder says this involves a lot of hard work. He's right, but it's not impossible.

This aside, It's been an easy start. S&S Londis is a shining example of a well-run c-store. I'm pretty sure the visits that await are not going to be quite so pleasing.

Are you an unaffiliated convenience store that would like the benefit of Geoff's expertise? If so, email

S&S Londis
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Size: 2,000 sq ft

Staff: Two full-time, two part-time

Top lines: Tobacco, BWS; coal, bedding plants and bottled gas also do well

Who is Geoff Burch?
The son of a Viennese psychiatrist, it's perhaps no surprise that Geoff Burch would devote his life to understanding the inner workings of the customer's mind.

Burch is recognised as one of Britain's toughest business gurus and makes no apology for having an opinion on everything. Last autumn he put his expertise to good use by starring in the BBC2 series All Over the Shop, where he offered practical advice to a number of struggling independent stores - each one "a gem of wackiness" according to Burch.

Having obtained a degree in advertising at Cheltenham College of Art and Design, the town where he lives today, Burch went on to work in advertising and sales before setting up his own business consultancy. Over the years the retail expert has helped everyone from budding entrepreneurs to big business, and has a number of leading fmcg and retail clients in his portfolio.

Burch is the author of Resistance is Useless - a book on how to transform your enemies into bosom buddies, and Go It Alone, a guide for every entrepreneur in the making. He is also regarded as one of Europe's liveliest and engaging business speakers and often takes to the stage on a Harley-Davidson motorbike.

Now it's the turn of unaffiliated independent grocers to benefit from Burch's unique insight. He is relishing the challenge.

"You might ask why some stores wanted to put themselves up for my TV series, well some of them were desperate and saw me as a straw to clutch at, and some just wanted and needed good advice," he explains.

"The problems they faced were huge, but nearly always pretty obvious. There was the flower shop with no flowers, the music shop where the owner failed to get out of bed to open it and the model shop so full of junk that you couldn't get through the front door.

"No matter how good or bad a store they were, I can honestly say at the end of it all I really liked every one of them and truly wanted them to succeed. I keep my fingers crossed for all of them and I am always thrilled when I hear that someone is doing well. The same will apply in this new series for The Grocer."