The roots of the business, which was set up by Jones' grandfather in Gobowen, are in off-licences under the Cheers brand, and there are still two stores in the area trading under the Cheers fascia that are too small to branch out into convenience.
However, the focus today is on convenience under the Neighbours Food & Drink Stores banner, something Jones hopes to hoist above 35 stores in the next five years. The business, which was placed at number 47 in The Grocer's Top 50, has 15 stores in Shropshire and the Welsh borders, which are on course to turn over £14m in the year to September 2003. Nine have been refitted in the last two years, which has helped boost like-for-like sales running at 4.6% over the past five weeks, driven by chilled food, beers and wines.
Nisa supplies everything except bread, cakes, eggs, some produce, chilled meats and yogurts, which are sourced from local suppliers.
Jones is also trialling the six-day-a-week Nisa Premier service at the Tarporley store, which has reduced wastage, he says. "Nisa does a fantastic job. The only slight grumble is that to participate in the promotional leaflets, you have to stock all 70 lines. For While his blonde highlighted namesake was hammering out topstores like ours, which aren't very big, that's a lot, and we are often left with residual stock in some of the less well-known products. I think, perhaps, 40 key lines would be better for us."
The major challenge is finding new sites, something Cheers' new operations director and former Rusts boss David Quilty has on his to do' list. The other key challenge is to manage costs as personal injury claims and increases in the minimum wage eat into profit margins. Last year, the company had eight claims made against it mainly by staff or customers slipping up in a store and heading straight for the solicitor, says Jones. "Our insurance premiums have gone up 30%.
"You can't win," he says. Contact the claimant to have a sensible chat, and you are accused of prejudicing the case. Alter the offending step, or whatever caused the accident, and you are admitting liability.
"All you can do is shell out the money for someone to write out risk assessment documents, so you can be seen to have followed the correct procedures when you are hit with these things."
Crime is a growing problem, surprising given the sleepy locations of many stores, says Jones. "Only last week, someone broke into one of our stores and stole £800 worth of cigarettes." Last month, staff at another store were threatened by robbers armed with knives.
The incursion of the multiples into the convenience sector does not keep Jones awake at night, although there is always the fear that were a local forecourt to come up for grabs, a Tesco Express could snatch trade from one of his stores, he says. "We have a great proposition here, but you can't compete with something like that."