Every year, the RN team visits stores up and down the UK to learn about working life in independent businesses. In the fourth of our blogs on our visits, reporter Dave Songer joins Surrey retailer David Worsfold at his store in Cobham
The point of difference so many shoppers look for in independent shops is alive and well in Farrants in Cobham.
This family business, established 120 years ago, has a pretty unusual section: a humidity-controlled cigar room with a range rivalling most airports.
I am in Farrants for the day, to learn from them and get a better idea of what it takes to run a shop from morning to night.
I’m being shown around the store by its third and current owner, David Worsfold, who took over the 110-year-old business from his father. David enthusiastically explains it is things like the specialist tobacco room that give his customers something other stores don’t. And with a Sainsbury’s Local and a Boots within metres of the store, this unique area is all the more important.
David enthusiastically explains it is things like the specialist tobacco room that give his customers something other stores don’t.
The store underwent something of a transformation in 2015, with a £1.5m redevelopment of the very building David was born in, producing a 2,000sq ft community-focused store that also includes a toy shop, stationery section and a lounge area by the front door that David is happy for people to relax in – even if they are reading a magazine they don’t then buy. “It’s about making sure people know we’re here and that we want them here. That will make us a destination store,” he says.
Photos, ornaments and letters documenting the business’s history are located across the store, painting a picture of a shop with a history and approach his customers really appreciate.
“I got the idea from the retail consultant I employed, and she also helped me develop the colour scheme.” Pastel shades give the store a clean and airy feel that makes it feel much bigger than it is.
Much of my day was been behind the scenes, helping unpack and label deliveries, see how newspaper deliveries are sorted and even helping out with Christmas 2017 card orders nine months before they are displayed.
Without doubt, my favourite task was on the front line – the tills. George and Kendra were my teachers and if I learned one thing it is how difficult a job serving on a till is. That and how popular Pokemon cards are. One customer bought more than £100’s worth last week, I’m told.