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shabby, so we wanted it to be noticed that
something different was happening."
The fact that the store kept trading
throughout the refurbishment also allowed
shoppers to see exactly what was going on.
The revamp meant turning aisles around,
adding new fridges, new shelving, new
lighting and changes to the floors. And
then, of course, there was the stock to look
at, and the whole Civic Video branded DVD
rental area to re-assess.
Spar Civic Eight Mile Plains, which
playfully but accurately refers to itself as
the only combined Spar Express and Civic
Video store on the planet, is divided into
two distinct areas. Some 210 square metres
of the 330 square metre outlet is given over
to the convenience business and the rest to
its DVD rental operation.
Not surprisingly, given his breadth of
experience. Gary had already gained some
exposure to video and DVD rentals and
was determined to make that side of the
"A lot of the small Convenience stores
that used to rent DVDs a few years back have
got out of the business," said Gary. "It is not
simply a matter of ordering a few movies
and that's that ... it is actually very complex
and has got to be managed properly, and
we had to work it out very quickly."
When Gary and Andree did the refurb
they made absolutely sure that the two
sides of the business were completely
distinct from each other.
A step each way
"If you step into one side of the store you
are stepping into the entertainment world
with colour and differential, displaying
movies to rent or buy," said Gary. "If you
take a step the other way, you are into top
up, convenience style shopping ... they are
connected but they are different."
Crucially, there is still a single point
of sale for all products although there is
also a 'grocery-only' checkout available so
people don't get stuck in a big DVD queue,
and all the staff are trained in all aspects of
"We have made it so it can work together,"
says Gary. "Someone will grab a movie and
get their chips for the night and their daily
essentials as well."
Indeed, some 85% of customers renting
a DVD will buy something else from the
store so the two elements complement
Interestingly, due to the fact that Spar
Civic Eight Mile Plains operates in a small
shopping centre that has a number of well-
run specialist shops, Gary decided not to
compete on all fronts but rather to trade
away the traditional deli, fruit and meat
departments in favour of the video store.
"The video component is about 22% of
our business which is almost exactly the
same as you would expect from deli, fruit
and meat," he said. "But then DVDs have a
much greater margin!"
Spar Civic Eight Mile Plains, which is
open from 6.30am-10pm every day of the
year, has 18 staff, most of which are casual.
It has three registers and, at peak times,
there will always be a member of staff free
to maintain the shop or who can assist with
DVD enquiries. It's a busy place with its own
ATM and even a dry cleaning service.
The joy & the rewards
But Gary and Andree's efforts, hard work
and planning have been rewarded with
sales that have continued to grow healthily
despite the challenges presented by the
economic downturn. The store now serves
well over 5500 customers a week and over
6000 during the summer season.
The couple believes that one of the
tobacco and phone recharge, and the
couple is determined that no item should
ever be out of stock. Once the store has a
product that has proved it sells, then it's
simply got to be available on the shelves.
"That is absolutely vital in building
customer confidence," said Gary. "If people
want a can of kidney beans they have to
have confidence that their local store will
have it, otherwise they will think they have
to go to one of the big supermarkets, and
we certainly don't want that."
The passionate way Gary talks about
the convenience and impulse business
makes it obvious he has no regrets about
'taking the plunge' and leaving the relative
security of the corporate world ... but there
have been adjustments.
"There is not that same corporate
support network when you are out on your
own, everything has got to come from
you," he said. "To me though the joy of
this is seeing things work, making money
and enjoying a better lifestyle ... it's about
executing everything to the very best of
your ability and enjoying the rewards."
And yet, importantly, Gary says he is still
learning and, as he listens to customers,
is constantly tweaking elements of the
store. His hunger and passion for the
business makes you wonder whether a
new challenge may beckon at some stage
in the future.
"We are enjoying life as we are at the
moment but we are ambitious and maybe
we will want to give something else a go at
some stage," says Gary with a smile. "And
if we do move again, we certainly would
not want to go backwards ... it would have
to be bigger and better."
The Spar Civic Eight Mile Plains website is
most crucial elements in keeping sales
up when trading conditions are difficult
is to maintain stock levels. They say that
a store with empty gaps on its shelves is
the quickest way to lose the consumer's
confidence. Stock, they believe, should be
seen as an asset or an investment to be
handled with care and not as a cost that
you might squeeze or cut back on.
The Eight Mile Plains store stocks more
than 10,000 DVD titles and well over 3000
shop products ranging from grocery, dairy,
freezer and biscuits to ice cream, drinks,
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