Blueprint works for Sunder

The store run by Sunder Sandher is more than a classic Take Home Blueprint success story. It is a role model community store par excellence. His 900sq ft Londis outlet on a main road in Leamington Spa is a thriving neighbourhood store, which is highly popular with all sections of the local community.

And post-Blueprint makeovers, licensed lines now account for 25% of turnover, and 35% of profits. Sunder’s inspirational success has won him the 2006 Blueprint Retailer of the Year award – presented at Drinksummit where he was also a guest speaker. And there’s more.

He is an energetic champion of the My Shop Is Your Shop campaign and National Independents’ Day – highlighting the link between the Blueprint as a business guide for independents and MSYS as a positive marketing platform for family businesses.

Sunder was all set to follow his father’s footsteps into the antiques trade when he took over what was originally a 300sq ft secondhand store in 1983.

But he soon decided that his ambitions lay elsewhere and converted it into a CTN, with assistance from an uncle, who provided both advice and used shelving.

Since then he has never looked back, as the store has grown to its present size with plans for an pound;80,000 conversion of the next door property taking total floorspace to 2,000sq ft by the end of this year – plus additional investment in chillers and fixtures.

Sunder attributes the growth of his business to a number of things, particularly his investment in professional fixtures and fittings, especially chillers and frozen runs, which have received more than a pound;40,000 investment.

Growth has also been achieved by good community relations, local marketing savvy – and the advice of the Blueprint team. His forthcoming expansion will give him even more scope with increased chiller units enabling a dedicated off-licence section to be opened.

Other important factors in Sunder’s success story include his professional approach to merchandising, his philosophy of providing a professional shopping environment, plus the personal, friendly approach of two full-time and six part-time staff who help him run the store, along with his wife, Pam. Pam is a particularly important help to her husband, who is a local magistrate and very involved in his local neighbourhood.

The store offers a phone and delivery service for elderly customers and Sunder often collects and delivers their prescriptions too. He also provided a cash donation to the local school to top up their playground fund – a gesture much appreciated by children, staff and parents.

Sunder is very much involved in My Shop Is Your Shop activity and appreciates the importance of the FWD campaign. He was one of eight retailers who attended a special MSYS media training session in Birmingham where they were coached into making the most of interviews to promote their business and the independent sector in press, radio and TV interviews.

Alcohol is a significant part of Sunder’s Features > Business, so he was keen to take Blueprint on board. His ales, lagers and ciders were originally remerchandised by Blueprint adviser Penny Gildroy and this pointed up some gaps in his range. For instance, Kronenbourg lager, which is now a best seller, was missing. Chilled bottled speciality lagers overall are showing significant growth.

The Blueprint for Wine has proved a success too, highlighting chilled rosé wines which are selling well in both traditional and sparkling formats.

In the ARTD (alcoholic ready to drink) category, well-supported, branded new products such as the latest Smirnoff variety are growing well from chiller sales.

The store’s all-important spirits section has been enjoying increased popularity, by being part of the PLOD (putting leaders on display) trial, which has attracted other Londis retailers from as far afield as Middlesex and Chesterfield to see how it works.

Asked if he was pleased with the way the Blueprint had boosted sales, Sunder replied: ” That’s a silly question – have you seen the figures?”

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=== SUNDER TAKES BLUEPRINT AWARD ===

Leamington Spa independent retailer Sunder Sandher, a member of Londis, is the Blueprint Retailer of the Year for 2006. The prize is awarded annually to an independent retailer whose implementation of the FWD educational scheme acts as an example to the industry.

Not only has his store demonstrated again the benefits of the Blueprint initiatives, which are available to every independent retailer free of charge, but Sunder has taken his business one step further with his community involvement.

His interest in community, and his practical day-to-day links with the neighbourhood, were demonstrated on National Independents’ Day on June lst, which he celebrated with his own “Taste of India” promotion offering free samples of samosas, bhajees and other traditional delights.

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