Our retail expert offers some Tardis-inspired tips on how to make the most of your store

Imagine a fantasy world where your customer walks through the door of your c-store and steps into a 25,000 sq ft supermarket. OK, dream over! You're never going to turn your store into the Tardis, but with a bit of smart thinking and plenty of planning you can make sure you maximise the space you do have.

So, work with what you've got. That means optimising every inch of selling space in the store, while also giving customers plenty of room to shop in comfort without being wellied by shopping baskets when they bend over the freezer cabinets.

Over the years, we've revamped several stores in our portfolio and learnt quite a few tricks to ensure a store always looks the business. The key is to make sure fixtures can be easily replenished and the whole place has an uncluttered feel to it. It's all about seeing the store from the consumer's point of view and understanding what they're looking for in terms of layout and range.

Studying the demographics of an area is something we rely on to establish that all-important layout and range. We need to know what kind of people are likely to be coming through the doors and, of course, this varies from store to store.

For example, we have a store almost exclusively dedicated to professional commuters; one that serves a village community and others that have a solid working-class profile large families, hundreds of schoolchildren and a large number of manual workers. Each one is different and each requires a different layout and range.

There are a number of websites to help with demographic profiling. These provide us with a fairly accurate picture of the predominant ages, genders and employment in a catchment area and suggest the type of products that should primarily be stocked premium products or value ranges, ingredients or ready meals, fresh produce or canned products, 'healthy' products or snacks and confectionery. They also help identify specific product opportunities such as fresh coffee, food to go, sandwiches, a Slush Puppy machine and so on.

Before we allocate bays in the store, though, we decide where to locate the counter. This is a crucial decision our customers want to feel comfortable at the checkout and our staff need to be able to greet the customers as they enter the store. At this point in the planning, we encourage our shop fitters to produce several alternative 3D plans of the store to allow us to choose wisely (we also site the 'back office' at the front of the store to allow the management team to be close to their customers at all times).

Once layout has been determined, we are then ready to select the product range by adopting a methodical and systematic strategy to avoid running ahead of ourselves. Firstly, we work out how many bays can comfortably fit into the new store usually 60 for a 1,000 sq ft store and about 150 bays for a 3,000 sq ft store.

At this point, we decide on how many bays we can allocate to each category for example, in the case of soft drinks, we may decide on three chilled bays and three ambient. Once we've established how many bays to allocate, we then begin selecting products by meeting face-to-face with our suppliers. Market information is also available from a variety of excellent websites, trade press features and Group Support functions and, again, by visiting other stores of a similar size in the area.

And the final piece in the range and layout jigsaw is to decide the number of facings taking care not to cram in too many different brands, duplications and sizes. It is important to constantly review each fixture once the store is up and running and to tweak products and ranges. Take EPoS data, product launches and customer comments into account when doing this.

Keep it simple, and be methodical.

Kishor Patel is a board member of Nisa Holdings and owns six stores (and an Indian takeaway)

Business Barometer
Was Independents Day on 4 July a success?
No: 71%
Yes: 18%
Never heard of it: 11%

Have you ever had to discipline staff for theft?
No: 73%
Yes: 27%

Has shoplifting become more or less of a problem in the past five years?
More: 50%
Less: 35%
Don't know: 15%

Have you installed CCTV to secure your store?
Yes: 98%
No: 2%

What is the greatest cause of shrinkage in your store?
Product waste: 45%
Shoplifting: 30%
Don't know: 21%
Staff theft: 4%

New in my store - Paul Fisher
Name of store: Fisher's of Gerrards Cross
Type of store: Small supermarket

Who are your main suppliers?
Nisa, Wilkins Foods, Petty Wood and many others. We also have 40 local suppliers.

How often do you get new products in?
We have deliveries every day of the week. Deliveries of fresh meat and fruit and veg are every day and Nisa delivers twice a week.

What new products have you started stocking recently?
One interesting new product is Easy Beans, which is like a meal in a pot. Also Shemin's Curry Paste, from a local supplier.

How did you find out about them?
Suppliers usually come into the store and send us emails. Easy Beans found us on Twitter, so that is a real Twitter success story!

Is any one product selling particularly well and why?
Pimm's went very well over Wimbledon, as did Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Wine sales are on the up, particularly high-end wines because we are doing a lot of tastings.

Is any product selling particularly badly and why?
Non-food. We've got a Tesco up the road so things that you can buy in bulk toilet rolls, washing-up liquid have slowed down.

Have you delisted any products recently?
We have delisted a few ranges of products that are particularly low-end. We have dropped Ragu sauces because the margin's not there, and we'd rather promote local sauces and people like Mr Organic things you can't get in Tesco.

Propertyof the week
Nestled in the Yorkshire Dales, three miles from Skipton, the Cononley Post Office and village store has been put up for sale.

This well-established Post Office and general store is the only shop in the sought-after and picturesque village. Being close to the A629 and with a railway station providing regular daily services to Skipton, Keighley, Leeds and Bradford, the store benefits from excellent transport links.

This attractive end-of-terrace, stone-built property comes complete with a split-level sales space with a storage area on the ground floor, three-bedroom accommodation on the first and second floors and plenty of character. The freehold is available at an asking price of £375,000 plus stock at valuation.

For further information contact Nick Nunn of Christie + Co on 01133 892700.