On the face of it Sira Supermarket is a regular ethnic foods retailer trading out of an unremarkable retail park in the shadow of Heathrow airport. But above the 22,000 sq ft food hall, on a recently constructed mezzanine floor, a non-grocery offer is taking shape that even Tesco might consider too fringe.
Consulting rooms are being built at either end of the mezzanine that will house doctors and beauticians. Herbal remedies will soon be prescribed by an Ayurvedic doctor on site and yoga classes have already begun at weekends.
It’s a far cry from DVDs and car insurance and Sukh Sira (pictured right) hopes the new additions will establish Sira not just as a hub of its ethnically diverse local community but as a centre of wellbeing in west London. “We have put in a lot of time and effort in structuring the mezzanine,” says Sukh, who runs Sira along with brother Harvey and sister Lucky.
“It is so easy for people to make up excuses about why they can’t do exercise or why they haven’t gone to see the doctor about their back. We’ve thought about all that and put everything under one roof to make it easier for our customers.”
It’s a seismic shift for Sira, which began life in the 1960s as a traditional family convenience store run by the trio’s father Jhamlam. The original 3,000 sq ft store is still trading on Southall high street, but has been hampered by strict parking regulations and the trend towards out-of-town shopping.
Despite the obvious potential in its non-food services, Sukh is keen to stress that Sira remains a grocer at heart. Its offer is built around its core British Asian customer with extensive food ranges from Thailand, Malaysia, China, India and Sri Lanka. Sira has also introduced Polish and eastern European products to broaden its appeal and offer a point of difference from the multiples.
“We’re bang in the middle of Tesco, Sainsbury's and two Lidl stores,” says Sukh. “The multiples are now offering a wider range of ethnic food than they have ever done, but their range is still very limited in comparison to what we can provide.”
As well as the alternative medicine and beauty upstairs, a café is to be introduced in the coming months, along with ethnic clothing such as saris, with both off-the-peg items and specialist made-to-measure garments such as wedding dresses available to order.
“This supermarket is an ongoing venture and we will continue to listen to our customers’ needs and do whatever we can to give our customers what they want,” says Sukh.
Regular Sira customers are enthusiastic about the new offer, says Sukh, who claims that the supermarket’s grocery trade is also reaping the benefits.
“One of the yoga teachers, who is very well known in his field, recently held a masterclass in the studio and 250 people came. Most of them didn’t even realise there was a store underneath the studio as they’d never been here before, so after the class a lot of them came down and did some shopping,” says Sukh.
That’s surely a case of cross-selling at its finest and a tactic Sira hopes will stand it in good stead to ride out the recession.