Oscar’s On The Green, Hove

The Oscar’s On The Green convenience store in the Hangleton area of Hove has been owned by Neil Patel’s family for 30 years. The area and store have changed considerably over that time. Earlier this year the family extended into the unit next door when the Hartley’s chain went into administration. DRN speaks to Neil Patel to find out more:

What is the demographic of the area and how has it changed over the years?

It’s mixed. The area used to have a lot of elderly people but in recent years a lot more families have moved in.

We have a lot of passing trade because people drive this way to get on to the A27 and the A23 towards London.

We used to have second store in a more central area of Hove called Poets Corner – that was a real family and commuter area, and fairly affluent. We are seeing Hangleton starting to become more like that.

The schools are good and a new secondary school is about to open nearby, plus two of the main Hove secondary schools and a primary are fairly near, and a Hove sixth form centre is about to open down the road.

We have to stock a mixture of things to cater for our different customers, so we sell a lot of newspapers, and snacks for schoolchildren, but we also have some healthy snacks and products now, and fruit and vegetables too.

What is your competition like?

There is nothing else here so we are the nearest store serving quite a big residential area. There is another bank of shops a bit further away, which has a Tesco Express and a Co-op, but the roads are busy there and it can be hard to park. There is also a very big Sainsbury’s store fairly near to us for bigger shopping trips.

We are really busy around school run times, so just before 9am and after 3pm, and we expect it will get busier with the new school and sixth form opening.

Our shop is on a corner and there is parking here. A bus stop on a route into central Hove and on to Brighton is opposite.

We used to be next door to a Hartley’s but they were separate shops with ours being independently run. My father had run this store for more than 30 years so really we were just waiting for a way to be able to expand the business, and when we heard the store was closing it was a perfect opportunity for us to expand and give the whole business a new refit.

That all happened at the start of the summer and it is the biggest investment we have given this store to date, but it more than doubled our sales when we reopened and sales are still going up.

We [are joinig] Nisa, so I am hoping I can then also add some Co-op products to give people more choice.

What is your alcohol section like?

We have a really big selection of alcohol. We kept all of the brands that Hartley’s had but we have been able to be cleverer with the space, so the same number of products take up around half of the old Hartley’s unit. It has meant we have been able to expand other categories in the shop too, although alcohol is one of our top categories now.

I have made sure we have a lot of chilled beers and wines, and opposite this there are more beers and wines on shelf. When you walk from this section to the till you will see all of the mixers and soft drinks, and I planned the layout this way deliberately.

We have a wide till area and all of the spirits are behind it so they are clearly visible.

What sells well?

Craft beer is selling well and we have just introduced a new range from Lost & Found, which has attracted a lot of attention. I highlight new things on our Facebook page.

We have some deals in beer, such as three-for-£5.25 for some ales or two-for-£5.50 for the Sussex ales. The Lost & Found beers are currently two-for-£5.50.

I reintroduced some of the deals that Hartley’s had, such as four cans of Stella for £4.50, and offers on red and white wines, plus deals on spirits. These are really good deals for the customer and not necessarily good earners for me, but it still attracts people and that is what Hartley’s used to do, so I brought the deals back after a few weeks without them.

They just weren’t shifting until I brought the deals back and I realised Hartley’s had some loyal customers who bought those products regularly.

It’s all balanced out by sales of more premium products, which have good margins for me, such as craft beers, which people sometimes buy as individual cans for more than £3 each.

Other higher-priced items sell well too, such as Prosecco, and some of the more premium wines and spirits.

We have three shelves of gin. Gordon’s moves well as we sell it at a good price – £13.50 a bottle – but we also sell some higher-priced ones including Brighton gin, and different flavours of Whitley Neil. Whisky sells well and we have Bell’s on offer, but I would say gin and vodka are more popular at the moment.

We also have good sales of pre- mixed drinks in cans. If new things come out I would consider stocking them if it’s a brand I know does well for me, so a new variant of Gordon’s perhaps, or the canned Barefoot wines, which I stocked recently because I know Barefoot wines are popular.

Have you got any plans for the future?

I’d like to introduce hot food at some point but I think I will wait until the new sixth form nearby properly starts. And I need to figure out some more space for an oven.

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