Mushtaq Hussain has been running his own stores for more than 20 years and is in the process of letting his latest property, 2M’s in Selly Oak, Birmingham, but he still has an appetite for retailing.
“Retiring - you gotta be kidding,” he says, even though this latest deal will make him the landlord of three stores, one let to the Co-op. He expects it will be about three months before he hands over the Selly Oak store, and in the meantime he is looking for his next property.
He is looking for shops with potential, where he can add to his track record of taking over businesses and building them up, he says. However, he is careful about location because he would not like to find a Sainsbury or a Tesco opening near by. “They are so powerful. I would be crushed like a small car under a big lorry on the motorway,” he says.
He may not have the financial muscle of Sainsbury or Tesco, but that did not prevent him investing a six-figure sum in his c-store in an attempt to match their standards. Appearance is important, he says, having installed air conditioning, new flooring and lighting.
“Customers expect the same standards they see in Sainsbury,” he says.
Matching the multiples extends to services too. He has recently installed a terminal to process credit cards and e-top
ups. “I was put off by the charges,” he says, “but credit cards are a way of life for customers and they expect to be able to use them. It has helped my business a lot.”
His store is just under 3,000 sq ft and is open from 6am to 9pm seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, although on Christmas Day he limited his opening time to just five or six hours.
Although several symbol groups have suggested to him that such a busy store would be better off taking deliveries from them, he is determined to remain independent. “Despite the time involved, cash and carries work out much cheaper and I like to see what I’m buying,” he says.
He reckons he visits Batleys’ West Bromwich depot two or three times a week and he also makes occasional visits to Bestway and Booker.
The Batleys depot is just 12 minutes drive away and he says he can be in and out very swiftly. “It is very good. If the depot were not there I would probably have to join a group,” he says.