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H & R News, 35A High Street, Camberley, Surrey, GU15 3RB
Dipak and Jayshree Shah swapped international property investment for independent retailing and found their niche ina newsagents in the cricket-loving town of Camberley. Toby Hill reports
When Dipak and Jayshree Shah took over H & R News in August 2017, it marked a big change from their former life. They had previously worked in property, managing investments as far away as Dubai and Mumbai. It was a fast-paced, jet-setting lifestyle – but after decades in the game, they were ready for a change.
As luck would have it, as they were considering their next career move, the newsagents they now own in Camberley came on the market.
“It’s a very good business, in a great location, which guarantees a steady income whatever the weather,” Dipak says.
It was the first time they had worked in retail. And while the location was indeed excellent – on a busy high street, with plenty of passing footfall – they quickly found there was a lot of competition for customers.
“There are two independent stores on the high street, and three kiosks within the nearby shopping centre, as well as supermarkets,” he says.
But Dipak and Jayshree brought their old business acumen to their new enterprise, quickly getting to know the local area and finding small ways to set themselves apart from the competition.
“There are a lot of different people passing by,” Jayshree says. “So, on some smaller items we began cutting down the number of facings of the best-selling lines and putting in more variety. Now we have a very wide range of products such as drinks and chocolate. People like it. They tell us, ‘We can’t find this flavour anywhere but your shop.’”
To extend their drinks range, they removed an old freezer and installed two branded fridges: one for Red Bull, and one for Wall’s ice cream. The change was a huge success. By widening their range, their Red Bull sales multiplied five times.
“It takes careful stock management, and my wife and I are constantly filling up to make sure we don’t run out of anything,” Dipak says. “We fill up the night before, and again in the quiet period after lunch, so the drinks are always cold. We get comments on the coldness of our drinks all the time.”
Another key part of the store is their HND service. Dipak estimates they have one of the largest in Surrey, delivering 400 papers daily to 350 customers. And, counter to conventional wisdom, they find their newspaper business is going from strength to strength.
“I was worried about the future, but the opposite has happened: every week we have an increase in newspaper sales,” he says, adding their overall sales total around 3,500 copies each week.
We have a very wide range of products, such as drinks and chocolate. People like it. They tell us, ‘We can’t find this flavour anywhere but your shop’
They have achieved this by taking a proactive attitude to selling newspapers. They approach local businesses – such as nearby retirement homes – and offer deals of three or six months without delivery charges.
“We also make sure the service is excellent: any problems, like a wrong delivery, and we’ll get it sorted in minutes.”
On top of these central CTN roles, the couple began layering additional services. Their store offers dry-cleaning, PayPoint and UPS parcel collection, each of which get people coming back again and again.
After a while in the town, they began noticing what people were passionate about. There were several events – classic car and arts and crafts festivals, a carnival. Similarly – being in Surrey – there was a cricket team, the Camberley Cricket Club, viewed with affection by their customers.
“We realised it would be a good idea to take part in these things, so we began sponsoring them,” Dipak says. “We give a little money to the festivals and some crates of beer to the cricket club for their evening get-togethers. Then they’ll put up a board with H & R News on it. People get to know the name, it makes us stand out in the area.”
After a lifetime of jetting between continents, they have found their own little corner of the world. And it’s a cricket-loving town in Surrey.
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