- Name: Hitesh Patel
- Store: Gay's Newsagent
- Location: Hertford, Hertfordshire
- Size: 550 sq ft
- Years retailing: 31
- Years in the IAA: 2
From underage sales to store layout, responsible retailing feeds into every part of a retailer’s business. The IAA’s Nadia Alexandrou visited Hitesh Patel’s Hertford-based store with JTI’s Melanie Mills to discuss how stores can get this right.
Having been in the industry for 31 years, Hitesh believes he has done all he can to be a responsible retailer but worries about continuing to innovate and improve to maintain standards over time.
1. Keep up to date with all relevant legal requirements for the products and services you sell.
As a busy shop that has customers who are under 18, Melanie can see that Hitesh takes care to follow tobacco regulation closely, keeping his refusals register up to date, for example. She spots just one potential difficulty. “I noticed that the A3 statutory notice is slightly hidden around the corner behind the counter, and it’s important to have this in plain view of customers to send a clear message,” she says.
As a CTN, Hitesh doesn’t sell fresh food so has less health and safety requirements and legal regulations to adhere to, although he regularly consults trading standards to stay up to date.
Melanie reminds Hitesh that major tobacco manufacturers have resources for retailers. JTI’s Advance website, for example, provides updates on tobacco legislation. “The ‘No ID, No Sale’ pack has also just been updated, which is a useful tool for retailers and their staff,” she says.
2. Make sure you are recognised as a responsible retailer in your community.
Hitesh feels that maintaining relationships with authorities in the community is key to keeping his store safe and reputable, and is in frequent contact with trading standards and PCSOs.
In addition, teachers from the local boys’ school stop by every day, and sometimes staff from the comprehensive, to check if any children are causing problems. “It’s great that Hitesh has such open and honest communication with teachers from local schools” says Melanie.
“To take it to the next level, he could offer to speak at community groups or local schools to strengthen his relationships and show he’s taking the lead in the community when it comes to dealing with underage sales.”
3. Make your business a safe place to work and shop in
Unlike some nearby shops, Hitesh tells Melanie that he doesn’t limit the number of children allowed in his store at one time – treating all customers the same is important to him. Hitesh has kept a simple shop layout and uses signs to remove any temptation to steal. To make his staff and customers feel safe, the shop has several CCTV cameras secured under a brightly-lit ceiling.
Hitesh has high standards around health and safety, risk management and fire safety, but it is important to pass his values on to his staff to ensure consistent standards are kept when he is not in the shop.
Melanie recommends he keeps his staff regularly updated on legislation through refresher courses and consider creating a list of things to check around the shop to ensure a consistently secure environment.
What we learnt:
“It’s clear that Hitesh has solid procedures and policies in place, so I encourage him to do what he’s doing, but more of it. There’s only a few things I can comment on, such as the A3 sign and keeping staff regularly updated on legislation through refresher courses. Hitesh’s community relationships are very strong.”
Melanie Mills, communications manager, JTI.
“Today has been very useful and it’s always good to talk to people who can help you deal with current trends and better prepare for the future. One thing I’ve learned is that my team can play a big part in making our availability even better. It’s really given me encouragement that I can make changes and hopefully get into the top 12 IAA stores this year. Working with suppliers is going to be key to this.”
Hitesh Patel, Gay’s Newsagent, Hertford, Hertfordshire.
Hitesh’s action plan:
Make full use of trade manufacturers’ websites to keep on top of legal requirements.
Work with local schools and the community to raise his profile as a responsible retailer.
Regularly talk to staff members about the importance of the store being a safe place to work and shop.
Your action plan:
- Go to betterretailing.com/IAA to download the free tools to improve your store
- Complete the benchmarking form by 26 June to enter the IAA and be in with a chance to receive a mystery shop visit
- Download your free digital copy of the IAA’s Retail Profit Guide.