Jen Bowden finds out how Naresh Gajri and Rakesh Sood are brightening shopping on a city housing scheme and making big savings on energy
CRANHILL, on the eastern edge of Glasgow, could strike the casual viewer as a concrete jungle from the time when tower blocks were thought to be the future of social housing.
But it’s a much more multi-faceted community than might first be apparent. These days, for example, the local residents include many European immigrants. And the last few years have seen extensive regeneration activity in the area and in nearby districts.
But one of the most recent projects isn’t the work of the local council or the developers who built the nearby Fort shopping complex. Instead it has been carried out, in the district’s Lamlash Crescent, by retailer partners Naresh Gajri and Rakesh Sood, who have invested substantially to transform Cranhill Premier and Post Office into a state-of-the-art mini supermarket.
Naresh has been in the store for 25 years. He was born in Kenya and worked for a while with wholesale group Bestway in London.
“But I wanted to be self-employed,” he said. He found his opportunity in the Cranhill store, moving there in 1978.
Rakesh, who previously worked at Heathrow airport, came into the business a year ago. “I thought I was retiring,” he said. “Now I’m working full time again.”
Trading hours at the 2,700 sq ft shop are fairly short by c-store standards – it’s open 7am – 6pm Monday to Thursday. Closing time on Fridays and Saturdays is extended to 8pm, while Sunday hours are 8am – 1pm.
It’s a busy shop with a healthy turnover, but housing scheme stores just about anywhere in Scotland can face challenges if they open late. And the partners, who both work in the business along with 12 more staff, feel it’s important to strike a reasonable life/work balance for everyone’s benefit. “It’s important to have family time,” Naresh said.
Back in February, when they took the decision to modernise they had a number of objectives. They wanted a bright, modern store with a comprehensive product range that would meet the needs of the local community. They also wanted to get the best out of their Premier membership (the store first joined the symbol group in 1998). And, importantly, Rakesh and Naresh were seeking major improvements in energy efficiency.
The partners got together with Premier, and with specialist firm SAS Shopfitters’ owner Dereck Lang and sales manager Craig Pringle, to plan the project.
Today the store is almost complete, though planning process delays mean, frustratingly, that the exterior still has to be done. For the time being at least it’s still apparent, from the pavement, that the space once housed several small shop units.
Inside, however, you wouldn’t realise that. Phase one of the interior changes saw significant structural work carried out, including the demolition of four interior walls, two of which were load-bearing. Those had to be replaced by new supporting beams. During the construction phase the store carried on trading, helped by the fact that much of the work was carried out on Sunday afternoons when the shop was closed.
Phase one of the interior changes saw significant structural work carried out
For phase two, the refit, the unit shut for just seven days while SAS Shopfitters worked with Naresh and Rakesh to transform the space. Now customers enter a bright, well-planned, well-merchandised store designed to be easy to shop and to give the business every opportunity to sell goods from its significantly increased product range. That includes everything from the many deals that feature in Premier’s promotional programme to specially sourced foods, drinks and other products that meet the needs of the 300 or so Polish families now living in Cranhill.
The store has been kitted out using the best quality materials; even the flooring has had a major makeover with the installation of hard-wearing Keopi tiles. The shelving has been revamped and re-thought. Tall fixtures lining the store’s longest walls help accommodate the extended range. Shorter units are used through the middle of the shop, they provide more gondola-end space for items on promotion and ensure clear sight lines all the way to the freezers and chillers at the end of the store.
Customers entering the shop will find the Post Office counter on the right. It’s effectively a self-contained unit connected, through the exterior wall, to the ATM.
Straight ahead is the news and magazine area that sits in front of a prominent and very well-merchandised confectionery area, which is in front of the tills.
An L-shaped zone runs along the shop’s back and right-hand side walls, between the main tills area and the Post Office, and contains a cleverly designed off-sales area. A glassed-in section helps with security but nevertheless allows prominent, easily seen displays. The counter sits on top of glass-fronted display units that provide excellent presentation areas for lines such as fractional-sized bottles of spirits, which in other stores often have to be stocked behind the till.
Customers who enter the shop and look left will see the bulk of the store, which is divided into two main areas.
The centre section – which features those high fixtures along the long walls and the lower runs of shelves through the middle – contains ambient groceries, household products, hardware, a wide range of bakery products and more.
And beyond that is the impressive area housing the new chillers and freezers that have been installed both to provide excellent displays of chilled products and fresh produce and to save energy.
The chillers allow excellent displays of fresh produce and save energy
Five Arneg Brema upright freezers line the left wall. A 6.25m Arneg Osaka multi-deck, dairy unit runs the entire length of the store’s end wall And then, completing a U-shaped configuration, the right wall has six more Osaka chillers, holding a huge range of soft drinks.
The high-specification units were supplied, to order, in around eight weeks by Italian specialist refrigeration company Arneg.
SAS Shopfitters’ Craig Pringle said: “The freezers from Arneg’s Brema range are remotely controlled and have double-glazed, hinged doors. The soft drinks and alcohol chillers switch off at night to conserve energy, but the food fridges stay on and maintain the temperature. These particular models of fridges and freezers should last about 15-20 years.”
Naresh and Rakesh have seen immediate running-cost reductions thanks to their new highly effective chillers and freezers and to the store’s new Lumisheet LED lighting. The lighting is also designed with both effectiveness and efficiency in mind and promises great longevity, the bulbs come with a five-year warranty.
“We’ve already saved more than £400 on energy,” Naresh said.
He and Rakesh are pleased with the development and have been impressed by the work of SAS Shopfitters. If they were doing something similar they’d go to the company again and they’d be happy to recommend them, they said.
Naresh and Rakesh have seen immediate running-cost reductions
And the store is, said Craig, one that SAS is very pleased to have been involved in refitting. He and Dereck had been impressed by Naresh and Rakesh’s determination to make such significant improvements and use such high-quality materials and equipment.
“It’s a big investment but it will pay back,” he said.
“This is currently one of the best stores in our portfolio.”