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How to Start a Convenience Store

If you want to start your own convenience store, you must be aware of things like food hygiene and restricted sales. Learn more about it here.

A convenience store, also known as a corner shop, sells a variety of groceries, household items, toiletries, tobacco and alcohol. 

An owner of a convenience store can run independently, invest in a franchise or become affiliated to symbol groups. Both franchising and affiliation come with benefits such as discounts on stock and access to own-brand products as well as continuous advice on retailing, marketing and IT. 

If you want to start your own convenience store, you must be aware of food hygiene, sales of restricted items and other things. Learn more about it here.

an image of a convenience store

Qualifications and skills needed to run a convienience store

As long as you don’t sell alcohol, you don’t need any qualifications to start and run a convenience store. However, you still need to have an understanding of food safety and hygiene, the laws relating to selling restricted items and overall knowledge of the sector. 

Food safety training

Both the owners and the staff of the convenience store must be able to demonstrate excellent food hygiene and safety knowledge. A great way of doing this is by getting a certificate in food safety. 

High Speed Training offer Level 2 Food Hygiene & Safety for Retail online course. This course costs £20 and covers topics such as handling food, customer safety, personal hygiene and more. Visit their website for more information.

Another option is The Level 2 HACCP Training for Catering & Retail course from High Speed Training. This course costs £30 and is also delivered online. It explains Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point principles, which is important for creating a food safety management system at the business premises. You can learn more here.

Alcohol licensing training

If you’re planning to sell alcohol, you’ll need a special licence, which might require you to gain a qualification. 

In England and Wales, convenience stores must have a designated premises supervisor, who is responsible for authorising the sale of alcohol to consumers. This can be the owner or any other staff member. The supervisor must hold a Personal Licence. It will be issued after completing the Level 2 Award for Personal Licence Holders. 

In Scotland, convenience stores must have an appointed premises manager that needs to complete the Scottish Certificate for Personal Licence Holders to hold a Personal Licence. 

To complete any of these qualifications, it takes between eight and then hours to study with an hour exam in the end. There are a number of accredited providers that offer these qualifications. They cost around £100 and you can find the list here.

In Northern Ireland, you need to hold a Liquor Licence, which is issued by county courts. Even though you don’t need any qualifications, you must prove that you’re fit to hold a licence and your qualifications and experience will be taken into account. 

Sector awareness and product knowledge

To run a convenience store successfully, you need to keep up to date with all the news in the sector. To do so, you can attend events, read journals or other online resources. 

Food business registration

You must register all the premises where food is displayed and stored with the environmental health department of the local authority. You need to do it at least 28 days before you begin trading. As part of the registration process, you’ll have to present a written food safety management system that has to be based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles. For more information, click here.

After submitting the application, a local authority environmental health officer will inspect your store and any statutory documentation on a regular basis. 

Food hygiene ratings 

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is run by the Food Safety Agency together with local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

After the inspection, you receive a rating from 0 to 5. It’s mandatory to display this rating in Wales and Northern Ireland and voluntary in England. The inspection includes checking how the food is handled, stored and prepared and the cleanliness of premises and how food safety is managed. You can learn more about it here.

food rating sign in a window of a convenience store

Alcohol licensing

As mentioned earlier, to sell alcohol, you need a Personal Licence. However, you also need a Premises Licence which is issued by the local authority. 

Even if you get the licence, you might be required not to run irresponsible promotions (such as buy one get one free) that encourages people to buy more alcohol, which could lead to increased crime. 

Preventing underage and restricted sales

When selling restricted products, you must make sure you ask anyone that looks as they might be below the minimum age to present photographic proof of age. Local authorities carry out test purchases to check compliance. If you repeatedly fail these tests, you might lose your licence.

Key restrictions include:

  • Alcohol, tobacco products, nicotine vapour products, lottery tickets and instant-win scratch cards, razors and kitchen or craft knives can only be sold to those who are aged 18 or over
  • Christmas crackers must not be sold to anyone under the age of 12
  • Anyone selling alcohol must be 18 or over
  • Anyone selling lottery tickets or instant-win scratch cards must be 16 or over

Employing staff

If you open a convenience store, it’s very unlikely that you’ll work there by yourself. 

When employing staff, you must check whether your potential employees have a right to work in the UK. 

If you want to employ children, they must be 13 or over, can only do some light work, can’t work before 7 am and are only allowed to work no more than two hours on school days. Before employing children, you must inform their education authority that will carry out a risk assessment. 

Promoting your convenience store

Make sure your store is easy to find on the maps

Register with Google My Business and Apple Business Register to claim your place on their maps. This way people who are looking for a close corner shop can easily find you.

Create social media pages

Social media can be a powerful tool even for promoting a convenience store! Create social media pages using your store’s name, logo and provide other information such as opening hours and address. You can share your current promotions, new products or even photos of happy customers! 

Create leaflets 

Leaflets can be a great way to promote your store when you’re just starting out as well as later! Let people know you’re opening a new store in their local area and show what they can expect from you. After that, you can use leaflets to promote special offers and savings. 

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