Taking things to the next level

Mahmood Saleem is to expand the shop at his Jet site by adding a second floor, along with a Subway, ice-cream parlour and car park. John McNee visited Stevenson to hear more.

Mahmood exterior

Mahmood Saleem has taken Ardeer Service Station from strength to strength in the 14 years he’s owned it, but he reckons there’s further potential and aims to prove it with a massive investment and overhaul.

IT’S hard to find a square inch of Ardeer Service Station’s shop that isn’t being used for something.
The Nisa store, part of the Jet-branded forecourt in Stevenson, North Ayrshire, is packed from floor to ceiling with stock. With a near constant stream of customers, the layout is effective enough, but far from ideal.
“The shop is small, it’s busy and it’s hard to manage,” said owner Mahmood Saleem. “Not everybody can manage it. If I disappear for a few weeks, stock ends up out on the floor because it’s so hard to manage and we don’t have any storage.
“If you look at our shelves you’ll hardly find any lines with two facings, which is a problem. Let’s say a customer comes in for Irn Bru, which has just two lines, and they take six of them. There’s nothing left for the next person. We run very good promotions all year round, but we can’t keep the shelves stocked. You’ve got to constantly keep your eye on it.”
Things weren’t always like this. When Mahmood took over the site 14 years ago, the shop was doing turnover of just £3,000 a week.

Ardeer Nisa
“We took over, we didn’t do anything with any symbol groups, but we brought it up to around £7,000,” he said. “Then we joined a symbol group and did a lot of work inside, after which it jumped to about £22,000 a week. After that we took a new contract with Jet, keeping a competitive price with Morrisons. That took us to about £36,000 a week last summer. That’s why we think it’s worth spending money on.”
Mahmood has now finalised plans to quadruple his sales area, creating a new double-storey shop incorporating a Subway, an ice-cream parlour and a car park with spaces for 15 vehicles.
The £1.5m development promises more floor space, a better layout and more storage space, which Mahmood expects will boost turnover to at least £50,000 a week.

“We’re already doing £35,000 so that’s quite a reasonable projection,” he said. “On the fuel side we’re looking to go up another 25%. Because on top of fuel bringing people to the shop, the shop will be drawing people here for fuel.
“With Subway, Costa, fresh-baked bread, fresh cookies and fresh sandwiches I think everyone’s going to want to come here. I think it will be more comfortable for staff and a better environment to work and shop in.
“We are going to increase the product range. At the moment we’re carrying 400, which will increase to 1200. We’ll have more of everything. The chillers will be expanded to 10m. We’re trying to offer everything under one roof so there’s something for everyone.”

Costa coffee
Two storeys wasn’t always part of the plan. With no room for extra stock, Mahmood had hoped to expand onto the land behind the store, but was never able to secure the purchase. The suggestion to build upwards came from the local council’s planning officer.
“We were surprised, but we were told as long as it wasn’t shadowing anyone’s home it would be okay,” said Mahmood.
“We took that into account with the design and when we submitted the plan it didn’t receive a single objection. Everybody’s quite pleased with what we’re trying to do.
“We’re going to bring 35 jobs to Stevenson, which has quite a problem with unemployment, so it will help the town and the council’s happy to support that.
“All of our plans are in place, the only thing left to do is bring it to life.”
Scottish Grocer will return to Stevenson once construction is complete.