Interview with Saleem Sadiq, owner of Spar, Paisley Road, Renfrew
The winner of the Retail Technology Award 2015 – sponsored by
the Retail Data Partnership
Size: 3,500 sq ft
Hours: 6am – 10pm Mon – Fri, 7am – 10pm Sat, 8am – 10pm Sun
Period at store to date: 21 years
Saleem and his family currently run six Spar stores in and around the Glasgow Area. Their first was in Duntocher. Purchased in 1984, it is still owned by the company today.
Saleem opened Spar Renfrew, on a site owned by Clydebank Co-op, in 1994. It has changed quite a lot over the years, with its last renovation in 2011, when it doubled in size.
A key account with Spar Scotland and a multiple award winner, the store boasts over 9,000 customer transactions per week.
Spar Renfrew’s food-to-go offering, Chicken Cottage, will soon be replaced by Spar’s new foodto-go service, Daily Deli, as part of the store’s upcoming refurbishment.
The store is due to undergo another refurbishment, which should be completed by the end of March.
GOOD use of retail technology can improve the commercial performance, security and consumer appeal of a store, but it isn’t infallible.
Just ask Spar retailer Saleem Sadiq, who last month was woken by a phone call early in the morning to say a blackout in Renfrew had left his Paisley Road store without power.
“When Craig, the manager, arrived at the shop, he couldn’t get in,” said Saleem. “In the old days we could still have opened the shop, but with all our technology today we were snookered. The shutters wouldn’t come up, computers didn’t work, nothing worked. Technology has made our lives much easier in so many ways, but we’ve unfortunately become so dependent on it that when it breaks down, we break down with it.”
Thankfully, there was no blackout on the day the store was visited for the Scottish Grocer Awards last year. The judging team were looking for retailers with a desire to fully understand the functionality of retail technology systems and how it could help them achieve their goals. They also wanted to see effective use of technology to enhance performance in core retail functions such as stock control and ordering, cashflow, price control, profit analysis, news and magazine management, payments services and security.
Judges were impressed with Spar Renfrew’s use of technology in all aspects of store management and by its strong commitment to technology training for staff.
Technology also has an important role to play in customer interaction. Rather than relying on generic ‘deal’ signs and posters, TV screens positioned over the aisles illustrate the latest products on offer in end bays.
The store also operates fingerprint scanning technology for young adult customers, so their age can be easily verified when challenged.
“The youngsters like it because once they’ve been verified they can shop without having to remember ID. And the advantage for us that they’ll keep coming back to this store,” said Saleem.
Since the store’s opening in 1994, Saleem has tried to stay at the forefront of retail technology, and continues to learn, recognising that there’s no point investing in new systems if he’s not going to use them properly.
“You have to get as much information as you can out of it, analyse it and then hopefully apply those changes to the shop. Over the years that’s become my sole job in here,” he said. “I don’t physically run the store. I don’t open or close it. What I do is analyse sales information, tell the managers where we can improve, and try to come up with ideas for how to do that.”
OK ID machines are used to capture the finger prints of the store’s young adult customers so that they only need to register once and can thereafter purchase age-restricted goods without the need to bring other proof of age.
With another store refurbishment on the horizon, thoughts of how to improve and make the most of new technology are at the front of Saleem’s mind. Sales data will be used to change the layout and investments will be made to improve energy efficiency.
“We’re very keen to put wi-fi in the store and have been for a long time. The problem is that we need a centralised solution from Spar head office. I can put an independent wi-fi system in here, but the whole point is to gather phone numbers and email addresses so we can target local customers. If I was to do it independently I would have to take charge of that and it would take up a lot more time and effort than I can afford,” he said.
Media screens are strategically placed above each ‘real deal’ bay to highlight and promote the products on offer.
“We will also be looking at how we dispense our cigarettes. I was determined that as soon as we went dark we would move to some kind of vending process, but with the new EU regulations coming in May it didn’t make sense to bring it in yet.”
He has also been encouraged to consider introducing express checkouts, but doesn’t think he will go down that route.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is providing a personal service. If we brought in express checkouts, though I think in the long term we would save on staffing costs, we would be no different from the big stores. Customers coming here get that personal service that they don’t get in the chains. Technology is great, but it’s important not to lose sight of that.”
Stephen Burnett, managing director of award sponsor The Retail Data Partnership, left, and awards host Rory Bremner, right, present the Scottish Grocer 2015 Retail Technology Award to Saleem Sadiq, owner of Spar Renfrew.