In the first of a three-part series, newsagent Graham Hales shares his story of closing a newsagents. He explains why he and his sister decided to sell their business, and discusses the history behind their family store.
The newsagents business I have managed for the past 37 years has closed its doors for the final time.
There has been a newsagents shop in Portsmouth run by the Hales family for over 120 years. In 1894, my great-great-grandfather James Hales bought the shop at 205, Twyford Road in Portsmouth, after 15 years service in the Royal Navy and Coastguards.
The newspaper distribution business at the end of the nineteenth century was very different from today as each newsagent had to collect their own supplies of papers each day from Portsmouth Railway Station.
There is a story that has been passed down through the generations about one of the horses that the family owned called Tiny. He may have been called Tiny, but apparently he was a brute of a horse!
The business was passed on to my great-grandfather Alfred and then to my own dad, Norman. By the early 1960s several other shops had started selling newspapers around the Twyford Avenue area that affected trade. My dad’s solution was to sell the original shop and buy another. In 1962 the family business took on Locks at 11, Portsmouth Road in Cosham, which was very close to the station.
The first thing my dad did was modernize, and soon after that WH Smith & Son closed their station bookstall as they couldn’t compete. My dad died in 1979 and I took over the business initially with my mum, and then in partnership with my sister.
Three or four years ago my sister said that she wanted to stop working in the shop and that we should sell the business. I have enjoyed running the shop and was not ready to stop working, so considered the various options including raising the capital to buy her out, but finally decided that selling was the only way.
I chose to put the business in the hands of a local estate agent rather than a business transfer agent as I felt that the freehold property was worth more than the business.
The business went on the market almost three years ago and there have been a reasonable number of people visit to look over the shop and property. A few of them even made offers but they were either inadequate or were quickly withdrawn.
In part 2, Graham talks about how he negotiated the sale of his business and eventually landed a buyer for his store.