From prize-winning wrestling to international DJing, Leeds-based Ranjit Singh combines a hectic social life with making his shop the lynchpin of the local community. Andrew Lowry reports.
Working in retail leaves many shopkeepers’ with little time for anything else – the many duties of running a business often taking their lives over completely. Ranjit Singh, however, manages to be a high achieving wrestler – he came fifth in the British senior championships not long before talking to RN – and a successful Bhangra music producer and DJ, his work taking him all the way to Bollywood. So how does he do it?
“It’s all about routine’ he says. ‘Structure is so important. I train every morning from seven to nine, and while I’m doing that my wife is looking after the shop. Then I go to the cash and carry, and then I’m back in the shop. All it takes is a little discipline, and an understanding wife – both of which I’m lucky to have. I’ve also been DJing since I was 20 years old, and I do it a lot still, but there is time to do all these things – you just need to be prepared to put the work in.”
Ranjit’s time-management skills have been formed over 15 years in the trade – he was originally a prison officer, but something didn’t sit right. ‘I remember watching my cousins working in their shop, and thinking how there would be nothing better than being my own boss. Then one day they were selling their shop, so I bought it. The rest is history.’
Ranjit immediately set about modernizing and refreshing his new shop – “It was very old school,” he says. ‘It didn’t even have Payzone, and it hadn’t been selling newspapers. My approach has always been to offer maximum convenience.”
Ranjit also works hard to place his shop at the centre of his community. “We’re in a rural village area, so although people can drive elsewhere easily, the local shop is valued and supported by residents and is a lynchpin of the community. We do a lot of things, like offer free deliveries to the elderly, supply a coffee morning, sponsor local football teams, or offer kids a bouncy castle and crisps on the last day of term.’
While these are all eye-catching events Ranjit is keen to stress the importance of day-to-day interactions with customers in creating the local feel. ‘It’s simple, really,’ he says. ‘It’s just about not being miserable. We talk to customers a lot, and have a laugh with our customers. They really respond to it, and besides being fun for everybody, it does mean that they’re more likely to have had a good time. I’m not saying I’m a comedian or anything, but it’s always good to have a laugh.’
Times are good for Ranjit, but it wasn’t always so easy. Three years ago, the shop was struggling as the recession took its bite. “We looked around, and saw that we had to make changes. We’re with the Premier symbol group, so with their advice we totally changed the layout of the shop, placing customer convenience at the absolute forefront of our thinking. So, we rationalised everything and gave each category a special area each and made sure they flow in a logical way. Our soft drinks, beer, our fruit and veg have their own area, as do milk and snacks like Cornish pasties – it just makes everything easier for customers to find.’
And has it been a success? ‘Our turnover has increased by half in only three years,” explains a delighted Ranjit. ‘Implementing it was the best decision I’ve made as a retailer.’
If anyone proves it’s possible to excel in sport, music and business all at the same time, it’s him. But does Ranjit ever sleep? ‘Sometimes,’ he says -then energetically greets his next new customer.
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