Our Mentoring Winners

Partners for Growth Mentoring update

Over the last decade, Partners for Growth has helped numerous independent retailers grow their businesses, with advice on stock and store layout as well as other tips.

And, thanks to the programme’s mentoring competition, a handful of lucky retailers also won priceless individual mentoring from the award-winning membersof the Retail Advisory Panel.

This advice – which came with money to spend on the store – was tailored specifically for the winners’ businesses and proved crucial in growing their sales, boosting their profits and turning round their fortunes. The winners said the prize changed their lives.

But how have the winners’ businesses fared since? Was this help just temporary or has it contributed to long-term business growth for the winners?


Babar Sarfraz

Babar Sarfraz, owner of Premier Supersave Mini Market, Burnley, gave up a law degree course to take over the family store and was delighted with his win: “I wanted to make a number of changes, but really felt I needed to receive guidance from experts to help me decide exactly what I should do,” he admitted.

Retailer Advisory Panel member Ramesh Shingadia said Babar had been doing a number of things right but lacked a solid grasp of business fundamentals, such as the number of customers each week, the average basket spend and his gross profit.

“By helping him understand the importance of these key performance indicators, he could use the knowledge to make informed decisions on how to improve his store,” he added.

“We put forward a number of recommendations, including reducing his stockholding and delisting slower sellers, so less money was tied up in stock. Delisting slower sellers also helped him improve his availability and have a faster sell-through of stock.”

The Partners for Growth recommendations that Babar implemented included;

  • Changing the storefittings, including buying new chillers with doors on, introducing new lighting, and introducing a value fixture.
  • Fitting a new hot drinks machine.
  • Building alterations to make space for an office so he didn’t have to work in the family living room. This enabled him to better focus on running the business.
  • A greater focus on the customer offering and overall shopping experience.
  • A focus on ranging and merchandising, which included working with the Partners for Growth team and Booker to relay his fixtures, resulting in the addition of some missing best sellers and a value offer.
  • Securing the National Lottery in his store.

These changes resulted in a 20% increase in sales. But Babar hasn’t rested on his laurels since making these changes. The experience did more than identify areas for improvement, it also inspired him to plan ahead and grow his business.

He has recently invested in a new Rijo 42 Fresh bean coffee machine.

He is using his facebook page to keep customers up to date with changes in store and upcoming promotions, which include new parcel delivery services, and plans to open a post office in store.

He is also committed to continuing his personal development and has signed up to a customer service course, which upon completion, he intends to convert into a business degree.


“Being mentored really did change my life,” said Babar. “Not only did I learn so much from the Retailer Advisory Panel members about improving my business, the experience also taught me to try new things to see what impact they had. 

“Now I really enjoy retailing and feel much more in control of my business than ever before. I was thrilled when I was recognized as a Top 100 Retailer and now find myself giving advice to other retailers when at the cash and carry!”


Perry Pirapakaran

When Perry Pirapakaran, who owns Mace in Albert Docks, London E1, won in 2012, he had actually reached the point where he wanted to leave retailing.

“I was having huge problems with antisocial behaviour outside the store, I was robbed when returning from the cash & carry and had several thousand pounds of stock stolen, business rents were going up and the London Cross Rail works quite literally cut me off from 50% of my customers,” he explains.

“I had really had enough. Winning the mentoring competition was the first bit of good news I’d had in months and came just at the right time.”

As Perry is a Mace retailer, the Partners for Growth team felt it important to include Mace in the project, who welcomed the opportunity.

Perry threw himself into the project in what was, in his view a great opportunity to turn his fortunes around after the recent difficulties he had been facing.


Perry invested a lot of time and effort implementing all of the Partners for Growth teams’ recommendations, which included;

  • Making changes to fixtures and fittings, including;
    • lowering the shelf heights to give visibility across the whole store,
    • removing shelving to open up the alcohol area,
    • moving personal care to a more visible area of the store,
    • moving his office to behind the till,
    • purchasing a new ice cream cabinet, which he sited by the door to maximize his already strong ice cream sales.
  • Carrying out an assessment of the value of stock held and reduced it to improve cash flow and simplify ranging, as well as the inclusion of value ranges and local produce.
  • Making a huge effort to place his store at the heart of the community, by running a series of community activities and events.
  • Working with his local MP following the introduction by Partners for Growth. Stephen Timms MP, has helped in a number of areas including securing the lease for the store next door at no cost, and protecting his business from a major multiple convenience store opening across the road.

Overall the changes recommended by Partners for Growth have helped to change Perry’s fortunes dramatically, not only having a huge impact on the overall feeling of space in the store, but his sales too!

Perry has been continuing his hard work and his fortunes continue to improve. He had been trying to secure the next-door premises for some time, but was being blocked by the leaseholder, despite the unit being empty.


However, thanks to the intervention of his local MP Stephen Timms, and Perry’s own exhaustive community work, the council have now agreed to award him the lease for the premises. He is now busy with builders and planning to knock through and enlarge his store by 30-40%.


Perry has continued to work within his community and, as a result, now has no issues with crime – and his Christmas community party drew more than 300 people to the store! Changing to a free cash machine has also meant that he now puts all the takings from the store into the machine, vastly reducing his exposure to theft outside the store.


And Perry is feeling so much more positive towards retailing that he has even bought a second store, which is to be managed by a family member.

“I really enjoy work now,” he said “And having a team of people working with me that I can trust, means I manage my hours better and am not always tied to the store. “

He even has time now to make use of some previously neglected skills – his Masters degree in Maths. “I now have time in the evening to relax, and spend my weekends doing what I love most – tutoring mathematics to A-level students,” he says.


To find out more about Babar or Perry’s mentoring experience, please visit our past mentoring winners page.

If you have a question about improving your store and would like to put that to the Retailer Advisory Panel, then why not “Ask the Experts”?