Winner: Spar, Logans Road, Motherwell
Collectables Retailer of the Year Award 2014 – in association with Topps.
Interview with Kashain Arshad, manager, above left, and Asif Sardar, owner, above right.
Size: 1,200 sq ft
8am – 7pm Monday – Thursday
8am – 8pm Friday – Saturday
8am – 5pm Sunday
• Asif Sardar, proprietor, is one of the co-founders of and volunteers at the Well Foundation, a charity which organises events and sporting challenges to raise funds for good causes and has raised around £1m to date.
• Kashain Arshad has been manager of the Motherwell outlet for two years. Before that, he was a deputy manager with Sainsbury’s.
• The store has been under the Spar fascia since 2004, before which it was a non-affiliated store called AK Brothers. It has been a family-owned business since 1981.
• A Post Office was added to the store in April 2014. Nearby, there’s a Chinese food takeaway and a pharmacy.
• This year was the first time the store entered the Scottish Grocer Awards. It was a very successful first attempt. It won the Collectables title and manager Kashain was highly commended in the Employee of the Year category.
Doing a fair trade
THE traditional impression of the relationship between shopkeepers and schoolchildren isn’t always a positive one.
Signs bearing such slogans as ‘no more than two school kids at one time’ can suggest that anyone under 16 is a mischievous would-be criminal, best treated with a high degree of suspicion.
But at Spar in Logans Road, Motherwell, they take a very different approach.
There, youngsters from the nearby primary school are treated more like local celebrities, their faces adorning posters and TV screens that promote the latest ranges of trading cards.
It’s all part of a retail strategy that helped the store win Scottish Grocer’s Collectables Retailer of the Year Award 2014, run in association with leading supplier of collectables products Topps.
It might not be the first thing traders think of when looking for ways to boost their profits, but stickers, cards and albums form a big business in the UK, worth more than £40m a year.
Making the most out of collectables means building a good relationship with a store’s core collectables shoppers – children.
At Logans Road that means having a policy that places no restriction on the number of children entering the store, stocking related items like comics, and locating collectables and connected merchandise out front, in a position and at a height where young shoppers can easily see and reach the items.
“A lot of shopkeepers put them behind the counter,” said owner Asif Sardar. But that can act against impulse sales, he suggested.
“Sometimes, when kids are in with their parents, they’ll see them, grab a couple and say to their parents they want it. And they end up getting it. Other shopkeepers have them out of the way and kids can’t reach them. They might ask their parents for it, but they’ll just be told no. If you’ve already got something in your hand you’re more likely to get it.”
Manager Kashain Arshad came to the Logans Road Spar from Sainsbury’s, where he spent some of his time as a store deputy manager at a site where there was a different outlook.
“Where I was based there were a couple of high schools and they had one of those policies where they only let six kids in at a time,” he said.
“Here, it’s a sort of open environment. Other shopkeepers think of collectables from a shrink perspective, what they care about is that the kids don’t steal any.
“The thing is, because this store has been here so long, we know all the families. So, if any kids cause us any bother – which I don’t think we’ve actually had – we can just say to the parents.”
Asif explained further: “The ones who are adults now, having kids, I’ve known since they were young.
“Once you know someone, you have that relationship, and they have a bit of respect for you.”
Situated in a residential area of Motherwell, the family-run Logans Road Spar is within walking distance of three schools – Logans Primary, Ladywell Primary and Braidhurst High. With so many children around, collectables have always done well, but it wasn’t until last year that the store really began to push it.
The category became a priority for Kashain, who made it his mission to ensure the store was always fully stocked with a comprehensive range of lines (from Match Attax to WWE, One Direction to Transformers) and that new products were placed on the shelves as soon as possible.
“I don’t know of any other stores that push it as much as ourselves,” he said.
“We’re not missing a single collectable. The reason I know is because I’m on the phone to Menzies running through every single one we’ve got.”
Asif added: “Because we stock every collectable out there, a customer comes in and says, ‘You have it?’, the answer is always yes.”
If availability is crucial it’s also vitally important to ensure the products can be easily seen. The Motherwell store, inside and out, features posters promoting the latest lines. Advertising screens are also positioned at prime locations, displaying pictures of packs of cards in the hands of a few valued customers.
“These are kids who tend to buy quite a lot of cards from us and so they kind of see it like an award for collecting so many,” said Kashain.
Asif added: “In their class, they’re like celebrities. Their friends come in, see them and want to know how they got on the screen. They get a bit more respect from their friends. It makes a big difference at that age.”
However, as many a retailer knows, collectables aren’t just for kids anymore.
“You’d be surprised,” said Kashain. “We know quite a few adults who collect cards as well, especially the wrestling cards. I’ve started collecting the Hero Attax ones that have come out, because I’m a fan of the Avengers.
“The World Cup was also a big, big thing for us. When it started I remember Menzies distributed a dozen cases of Match Attax and I just displayed it right next to the counter and I think within about two weeks it had all just gone.
“We had a customer who had a competition at his work to be the first one to complete a World Cup sticker book. He would come in and buy 10 packs at a time. It was unbelievable.”
“And it’s not like when we were young and it was 25p or 35p a packet,” said Asif. “It’s a pound a packet.
“You get kids coming in, especially on a Saturday, with £10 pocket money and spend most of that on cards.”
But it isn’t all one-way traffic. Asif and Kashain have built on that good relationship with their younger customers to forge links with and support schools near the store and the local community.
The store sponsors an amateur football team, Scotia Athletic AFC, and discussions are underway about creating a healthy eating loyalty scheme with Logans Primary.
Kashain, a local Labour Party member and activist, is also earning himself a reputation as a man to take problems to, with some customers finding more assistance from their local Spar than from the council office.
That drive to help others was one of the things that saw him nominated for Scottish Grocer’s Employee of the Year, an award category in which he was highly commended.
“It’s always been one of my mantras in life to just help those that are disadvantaged,” he said.
“I’m lucky to have a house and a roof over my head and food on the table, so I’m looking to help those that are in more of a need than I am.
“We try to build up that image. We’re not just here as workers. We’re part of the community.”
“Those days are gone when you can just come in, stand behind the counter, serve customers and go home,” said Asif.
“You want to be out there, involved with everything that’s happening around you.”
There have been plenty of new developments at Logans Road since the shop’s award success. The shelves have been raised from 5ft to 6ft, a new aisle has been added and the old chest freezers are gone, replaced with uprights.
Most importantly, in April this year the store added a Post Office, which has already boosted footfall and provided positive knock-on effects on sales in several parts of the store.
The cake range has been extended – in part to meet demand from an increasing number of pensioners who use the shop since the Post Office opened – and an application has been made to expand the off-sales section.
However, neither Kashain nor Asif have taken their eye off collectables.
Scottish Grocer visited the store just before the regular football season began and the Logans Road team was preparing to improve displays and promotional activities on football ranges and other collectables. Plus, plans are afoot to host an exchange day at the store, supported by Topps, which, if successful, would become an annual community event.
“We don’t want the fact that we’ve won that accolade to be the end,” said Kashain.
“We want to keep pushing it within the community, because it is quite a good category for us and as soon as the football season kicks off it’s just going to take off again.”