Offering a wide range of services while building strong customer relationships has enabled retailer Dipesh Tanna to compete with the large number of convenience stores springing up around his Colchester newsagents. Steven Lambert reports

With a huge rise in competition from all sides around his two stores in Colchester town centre, newsagent Dipesh Tanna has made of point of offering a point of difference to keep shoppers coming through the door.

As he says: “If you can’t find a niche nowadays as an independent retailer on a busy high street, then you’re not going to last very long.”

Since leaving his job at a logistics firm nine years ago, Dipesh quickly built up a small retail estate counting one convenience store and four newsagents. Today, he splits his time between two 300sq ft businesses, NC News and Claydons Newsagents, around a five minute walk apart from one another.

 <figcaption>Displaying your services on A-boards outside your store could boost your footfall</figcaption>” width=”173″ height=”300″> Displaying your services on A-boards outside your store could boost your footfall</figure><p>He says: “It’s tough out there at the moment, and we have about eight news and convenience stores around us.</p><p>“In the last few years, we’ve also had a lot of pound and charity shops open up on the high street, along with the competition we have from the supermarkets.”</p><p>Instead of trying to compete directly, Dipesh has focused on building up the amount of services he can offer his customers.</p><p>He says: “Both our stores have the National Lottery and PayPoint, so we have a bit of a monopoly on that compared to some other stores.</p><p>“We offer all the payment services except for Western Union, which we’re talking to them about getting in.</p><p>“For example, we offer a Simple Payment service, where people can easily pick up there pensions or benefits, which is important because we a lot of different people visiting the high street.</p><p>“We also have PayPoint Rapid, which links up to our broadband and has to shorter transaction times to process things like international phone top ups.</p><p>“It’s also helped to cut down on queue times, and we must process around 900 payment transactions between the two stores every week.”</p><p>On the suggestion of his customers, Dipesh has also taken on free-to-use ATM machines, which are also installed in both of his shops and have proven to be another important footfall driver.</p><p>[pull_quote_right]We’re never going to be able to beat 99p Stores, Poundland and Tesco on price but we can definitely beat them in other areas[/pull_quote_right]</p><p>A more recent addition to his businesses has been a CollectPlus parcel service, which Dipesh says has helped attract different range of customers.</p><p>“We’ve processed in excess of 100 parcels on some weeks, and we have people from the local book shop and a lot of eBay-ers using it.</p><p>“We are seeing more affluent shoppers coming in because of it, which has slightly affected the kind of products we stock. For instance, we’re now selling quite a few e-cigarettes.”</p><p>To capitalise on this trend, Dipesh has signed a deal e-cigarette firm iBaccy to be the sole stockist of their vaping products in the Colchester area.</p><p>He says: “We offer the whole range and we promote it by the front counter. They sell for anything from between £6 and £20 and we make a decent margin from them. We’re also encouraging our staff to promote them directly to smokers.”</p><p>In addition, NC News has also gained a reputation as a specialist tobacconist, stocking Havana cigars and a varied range of loose tobacco.</p><p>Dipesh adds: “We’ve just started working with a new company, Tor Imports, and we’re now offering a lot different things like flavoured tobacco, everything from apple through to Turkish Delight. Again, it’s something a bit different compared to everyone else.”</p><p>By going down a different route and strengthening his best performing parts of the business, Dipesh has been able to hold off the challenge of his retail rivals, kept costs down, and even gain a whole host of new customers along with it.</p><p>He says: “We’re never going to be able to beat 99p Stores, Poundland and Tesco on price but we can definitely beat them in other areas.”</p><h2> Visit my Shop</h2><p><iframe style=