Nisa Tongham duo open wine-focused independent store

One of the finalists for OLN’s 2016 Convenience Drinks Retailer of the Year award has opened his second store, combining his expertise in both convenience retailing and alcohol.

Sujit Desai and his wife Kay manage the Nisa store in Tongham, Surrey and their focus on alcohol sales helped the store feature as one of the finalists in this year’s Drinks Retailing Awards.

The pair have now taken on a village store in the nearby village of Witely, uniquely adding a convenience offer into an existing wine shop while simulataneously increasing the number of SKUs on wine.

“We had been looking for a good location for a while and we know the area around here,” Kay Desai, told OLN. “This came up and we fell in love with it.”

“We wanted to bring in more local suppliers. We do get our deliveries from Nisa but we are not a symbol group with our Witely store; Nisa agreed to give us a delivery service out here though.

“Our Nisa Tongham store is much bigger and the store is different as it serves a different customer base. The location here is perfect. There’s really no other grocery or alcohol retailers in the village, and there’s no real competition here so it was a perfect opportunity.”

The store had been running for years as Witely Wines, and it was predominantly a specialised wine shop. The pair bought the shop when the previous owner announced his retirement and put the store up for sale. It took three weeks to refit the store and it re-opened its doors on 9 April.

Kay Desai explained: “We kept all of the specialised wines which were here before but we have made it more of a convenience store where local people can buy food and wine in one place. We kept his full range of wine and beers and we added our convenience food offer, and we have also managed to widen our alcohol offer.

“We introduced an in-store bakery and we have added more chiller cabinets. Alcohol is the biggest seller in this store so we added a lot more chiller cabinets so that we can offer chilled wine and beer. Before the owner had one chiller cabinet for alcohol and we now have three; it means we have been able to add more rosé and more sparkling wines, including Prosecco.

“We have probably increased the wine SKUs by 15%, despite squeezing in a lot more food into the same sized store. The previous owner had six or seven facings of the same wine and we have cut this right back to one or two for each SKU, so that we could increase the range.

“We cater for all prices and tastes here. Our Louis Latour range of wines sells very well. People know their wines around here. We do a lot of cross-merchandising, so we have a seasonal section where we can put wine and flowers together for Mother’s Day, for example.

“We also link alcohol with our frozen ready meals from Cook’s, so we can offer a meal and wine for £20 for example. We will put one of these kinds of promotions on for the summer holidays when people have less time and want to treat themselves.

“Space is a challenge and accommodating it all is hard but we try to maximise the space here. We have a lot of spirits on display behind the counter at a range of prices, but we make sure the prices are easy to see.

Behind the counter the shop has a fairly premium range of drinks on display including Champagne at £45 to £49 and a selection of spirits in gift packs including whiskies priced around £45 a bottle.

Sujit Desai said: “We knew that we could go a bit more premium with a village store particularly in this area. It is still a very new baby for us but at six weeks old sales have been fantastic. It has been overwhelming in fact.

“The previous owner had run the wine shop for 32 years and he was stuck in the same mind-set and he hadn’t needed to challenge himself, especially as he was approaching retirement. I saw the potential there straight away.”

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