The vision for innovation in convenience
Winner: Jaz’s Premier, Grangemouth
Independent Retailer of the Year – supported by Booker Wholesale
Interview with Jaz Ali, store owner
BUILDING on the vision for your store requires a retailer with a great deal of savvy and a strong ambition to provide what is best for the local community.
Nowhere is this clearer than in Jaz’s Premier in Grangemouth. It’s evident that every aspect of this store has been thought through from the second you walk in, whether this be the wide range of chillers stocked with soft drinks to cater to the local school or its range of fresh produce and groceries with long shelf lives to match consumers’ weekly shop.
That extends to the smaller details, such as ensuring the store remains neat and tidy throughout the day with well stocked shelves so no one leaves disappointed.
And that’s exactly the mission for the team at Jaz’s Premier, to ensure no customer leave empty-handed. It’s for these reasons and plenty more that Scottish Grocer Awards judges saw fit to name its owner Shajaz Ali, Jaz, as the Independent Retailer of the Year 2023.
It’s precisely this approach that Jaz believes helps to keep the clearly high standards that the store presents to each of its customers that come in.
Jaz said: “You’ve got to keep on top of everything in the store. My staff are really well trained for this as well. You can go out on to the shop floor and you can see that, at any time of the day.
“They constantly make sure the place looks neat and tidy. I’ve got a member of staff who goes around making sure every product is still well-stocked and makes sure that all the products are facing the right way so customers can find it straight away.
“I think keeping the store like this helps to attract more customers to the store, it makes sure they get a good first impression of the shop and helps to bring them back in, as well.”
Customers are certainly spoiled for choice in this store, too. On top of the groceries and soft drinks, Jaz makes excellent use of wholesaler Booker’s Premier format, including its Vape Station and Refresh @ Premier Station, with a plethora of options for both, including a raft of food-to-go options such as Rollover hot dogs and a variety of frozen slushies including flavours inspired by American hard-boiled sweet brand Jolly Rancher.
Along with this, the clear standout for the store is the effective use of its Beer Cave format, which is not only situated next to the counter for easy surveillance but also directly across from the store’s front door, immediately showing customers the breadth of options available to them from their first step.
From that first step, customers are welcomed into a new world for the convenience channel, one that isn’t afraid to move into its hi-tech offering.
This includes a custom radio station for the store that welcomes shoppers into ‘Jaz’s Premier’ and QR codes across the store that customers can scan to find out all about the latest promotions and deals.
Jaz’s store truly feels like a Smart-shop, one that isn’t afraid to embrace the future of the sector and that matches the vision Jaz had in mind when he first looked to open the store, even if it meant having to overcome some roadblocks in the process just to get it opened in the first place.
Jaz said: “When I first bought the store, the council initially refused the planning due to a lack of parking, even with the parking towards the back of the shop.
“This wasn’t good enough, so the council asked me to provide eight parking bays for the shop. So, to get around this, I bought the bit of ground outside of the shop, which meant I could bring in 13 parking spaces that are exclusively for shop customers.
“Despite that, it has really paid off, it’s immediately appealing and it offers easier access to the customers that need to use disabled parking bays as well.”
Looking to expand this as well, Jaz aims to bring in some EV charging bays to the car park, recognising the rise in demand for electric cars and ensuring his customers are well looked after.
A lot of Jaz’s efforts keep the customer in mind throughout, ensuring that he is an active member of the community. Jaz sponsors the local Grangemouth Gala Day and is set to take part in the Healthy Living Programme’s Welby Breakfast club to help provide a free breakfast for local primary school children.
It’s this emphasis on customer experience with the store that has led Jaz to introduce some truly innovative solutions for his outlet in a bid to improve the overall shopping trip for plenty of customers.
Jaz said: “I’ve got speakers on the outside of the shop playing music for local customers. It’s playing music that helps attract people to my store but it also announces our current promotions.
“So, for example, if someone is taking money out of our cash machine, they’re hearing this music and hearing about our deals and I think this helps to bring them into the shop as well.
“It’s not something I’ve seen many convenience stores in Scotland do. So, when we were putting this system in, I knew I wanted to put at least two speakers outside.
“It’s also something that people have talked to me about as well. During summer, I’ll put benches outside my store and I get a lot of older customers come in and tell me how much they enjoy sitting down to enjoy the music with the weather.”
All of these aspects certainly add up for Jaz’s store and it would be safe to say there are plenty of satisfied customers across Grangemouth who enjoy having a convenience store that offers the absolute cutting edge and then some.
And despite only celebrating the shop’s first anniversary recently, Jaz has planned out the next big step for the store coming this year – one definitely worth keeping an eye out for.
All of these ideas show Jaz’s ambition to set up his store to be one of the landmark convenience stores in Scotland and a prime example of the strength of the sector across the country.
Not only this, Jaz looks to build this store up to be his own personal flagship store as, going forward, the retailer aims to expand his estate and become a multi-store operator.
Jaz said: “I want to be an innovator in convenience. You can’t be hands-off in this game, so I want to build up my store to be one of the best, not just in the Premier estate, but for the whole of Scotland.
“And I want to spread this with multiple stores. While I already own buildings that I rent out to other store owners, I want to bring my concept to more people across Scotland. I’m in talks about another store at the moment, so I’m hoping to get this second store opened this year.”