It’s said that Londoners can be unfriendly, but Rajith Manikath makes a point of chatting to every customer who visits his small kiosk in the busy area close to Angel Underground Station.

“If someone is buying cigarettes, I’ll ask them whether they want a lighter or chewing gum,” Rajith explains. “Maybe they left theirs on the train, or in their office, or at their hotel. I find that if I ask 100 cigarette customers, about 50 will say yes to the lighter or gum, so that’s a good profit for us.”

“I always smile and get people involved. I talk to them about yoga, and give them tips, things like that. It means people like us, and they enjoy coming into the store,” he continues.

Rajith manages the store alongside his uncle, the store’s owner, Vasudev Patel. It has been in their family for about 30 years, but a lot has changed in that time. Most recently, they had a major refit in February. This involved a layout switch, the biggest difference being the till moving from next to the entrance, to the back of the store. 

“Moving the till has given us more space, allowing us to sell more things and display them in a more accessible way,” says Rajith.

“Now we can offer more choice for our customers. Some of the new things we’re selling include flapjacks, more varieties of crisps and chocolates, vaping products and smaller treats like lollipops,” says Rajith.

Another benefit of the layout which both Rajith and Vasudev like is that it gives a better view into the store.

“Even people on passing buses can now see into the store, and see what we have to offer. Sometimes I’ll see customers walking past, and I’ll always give them a wave,” says Rajith. 

When it comes to deciding what to stock in the shop, Rajith listens to his customers.

“If a customer asks us for something we don’t have, I’ll try to get it in as soon as possible,” he explains. “For example, we had a customer asking for Watermelon-flavoured Lucozade, so I’ve arranged to get that delivered.”

Rajith and Vasudev’s central London kiosk is in a vibrant, diverse area, meaning the small shop needs to meet a wide variety of shopping needs, from morning papers and lunchtime snacks to power adaptors for tourists.

“On weekdays, most of our customers know what they want when they come into the store – they buy it and go,” Rajith says. “This is why it’s important to always be well stocked. If someone comes into our shop on their way to work and they can’t get what they want, they might not come back the next day. Tourists tend to take their time a bit more, and actually look around.”

They’ve found that on weekday mornings, their flapjacks, cereal bars and bottled water tend to be popular – with commuters looking for a healthier snack on their way to work. “In the afternoon and evening, people are looking to treat themselves, and that’s when we sell more chocolate bars and bags of crisps,” Rajith explains.

He and his uncle aim to meet as many needs as possible with their small store, which is why they’ve started to stock a range of toiletries, batteries, paper products, and electronics such as USB cables and headphones.

“We don’t sell many of the electronic items. The UK adaptors are probably the most popular, especially with tourists. They also have a good margin on them. In terms of toiletries, again, we don’t sell them daily, but sometimes people will be in an emergency and need toilet paper or deodorant.”

Going forward, Rajith and Vasudev plan to keep improving their store. “We want to do more here – day by day, we want to improve everything,” says Rajith.


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