How the shops survive the storm retail

The fruit and vegetables lining the front of the store food, Cruson, Near Church Street, London, are inviting, but not massively consequential.

But this is only a small tip of a multi-billion pound industry comparable in size to oil and gas or defence.

At £38bn, the UNITED kingdom store sector constitutes a fifth of the total grocery market.

And as the supermarkets and chains of High Street, fight tooth and nail for market share, the store sector is holding its own.

Aris, who runs Cruson, was here from when he left Cyprus in 1960.

Don’t tell me his other name, and I wonder if it is her family name or the name.

“Aris, Aris. No one knows my name.” he says. “If you say, write down, everyone will say, ‘who is that man, I never heard of him’.”

He still speaks with a Cypriot accent, 58 years after his arrival in London.

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Aris has not always been a shopkeeper. In 1960, he started working in his cousin, Old Compton Street hair stylists cut the hair of celebrities, including a beard of boxer Henry Cooper, in 1963, the day after he had his face open gashed by Mohammed Ali.

Camberwell is changed by the Aris moved here in the 1970’s. The first supermarket arrived in 1980, and the old family stores fell away, a Tesco Express has started of up to 400 metres of distance; and the first customers, Cypriot and Jamaican communities, thinning. But Cruson is still here, with its vegetables and fruit peeking out from the edge on the pavement every morning.There is not much time for the banks

Since the Association of convenience Stores (ACS) has started in relief of the local stores in 2012, the sector has grown each year, despite supermarket competition, the names of escape from the High Street and customers are increasingly going online.

It is also very financially self-sufficient. These stores do not have much time for banks, and almost three-quarters of the investments of the funds into their own pockets last year came to over 800 million pounds.

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A slight chill did run through the field last year, when Co-op bought the store chain Nisa and wholesaler Booker has been bought by Tesco.

But the effect seems muted so far. Chris Noise, ACS head of communications, says: “Those that the take-over have changed things wholesale, but it is still not clear – is very much a work in progress.

“You could bring down the wholesale prices that would be good for the whole retail sector.”Small impact

The big supermarkets have tried to make their way in this market with the likes of Sainsbury’s Local and Tesco Direct, but they are not about 1500 of the UK’s 50,000 convenience stores.

Also chains such as Costcutter, Nisa, Spar, or McColls, account for less than a quarter of the total. The remaining 75% is still in the hands of independents such as Aris.

And they have another key advantage to larger players with about three-quarters of them have their own leases or freeholds.

All the shops, large and small, must pay the cost, but as Mr. Noice points, the independents are light on their feet: “they are very good and adaptable to keep costs down.

“Tesco’s business model means that a store manager are data from the Tesco Club Card as a guide, but he or she may not react quickly to the demand. A small independent will react to its customer’s more to hear – if they see that there needs to be something that I’ll do that.”


The result may seem to be an anomaly.

Aris’ fruit and vegetable show are the only ones to be seen on Church Street. He admits with a shrug, the market is not what it was: “young people Today do not cook. It is a pizza, a kebab, if you show them the vegetables they do not know what to do with them.”

Even so, he is not short of loyal customers for its taramasalata or drag in his watermelons up to the cashier.

He is one of the few retailers to stock brown fruit – wrinkled Jamaican orange-mandarin-grapefruit hybrid, and he does a good line in tomato plants and herbs for the local who wants something green to perch on the sill of a window, or a trail through the urban lattice.

Do not let anyone tell you that it is an easy life. Aris rarely get to bed before 11 in the evening, and three days a week it is up at 3.30 in the morning to get to the market. On average, a convenience store is open more than 14 hours per day, and one-fifth of the shopkeepers take no annual holiday.Rural shops

John Augustine has a different story altogether. A former marketing manager for the south and India to the U.s. wines and spirits business Brown-Foreman, he came to the UK 17 years ago.

Now, with his business partner Renchu Sachivothaman, is the owner and Matt, the Food, the Wine and More in the village of Barrow, and in west Suffolk and has another shop in Ipswich.

“It was simple, actually. I just didn’t want to work for anyone else. I wanted to be my own boss,” he says.

Has ambitions beyond retail, with an eye to the purchase of real estate and branching in the health sector, a time to build sufficient capital.

The shop is polished and professional, managed by Lee Button, a former Shell manager who lives in the Wheelbarrow.

Part of the reason stores like this exists is the lack of rural shops. About 40% of the stores are in isolated areas. In Barrow there is competition from a couple of metres down the road – the Barrow Store, part of the Premier chain. But the country is rapidly growing. There is a new apartment complex a half-mile away, and Mr. Augustine says that there is no room for both.

“If we had to rely only on the Barrow, the two of us would not be able to survive, but there are five of the six other villages that have no shop at all, and that depends on us, and there is no traffic passing too far south from the A14 motorway,” he says.Online boost

As for online shopping, grocery stores are playing an unexpected trump card, says Mr Noise: “The competition online can actually give them an advantage because they can serve as a pick-up and drop-off.

“It is not the last-mile online delivery services really struggle with, and convenience stores can play an important role in getting stuff to customers.”

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Matt, the Food, the Wine and serves as a collection point for MyHermes parcel that has about fifty regular users. The shop also has a Facebook page. Manager Lee Button says: “It’s used by people in the villages who do not usually drop in. But this way you find out what we do online, or if we have something in stock.”

The store offers another unexpected roll: an engine of social mobility.

According to the ACS, only one-fourth of the stores are inherited. Children of convenience, the owners of the shop, it seems, to move forward and upward.

Mr. Augustine bought his Wagon business by Yogi Patel who still lives in the village, but that he has run a total of 19 shops. Mr Patel’s son works for Citibank.

As one generation steps down there is no shortage of newcomers who want to take over. Aris, standing between his fruits and vegetables, is philosophical: “There will be someone else to take my place at the end. Will be Indian or Vietnamese, someone new. There is always going to be a shop here.”

As for Aris ‘ son, has no interest in taking the Cruson store. He works around the corner. He is a dentist at King’s College hospital.