In the shadow of the multiples, small retailers are holding their own and optimistic about 2006

Independent retailers we interviewed stocking up at Booker Redhill are keeping up their spirits despite the crushing competition of the multiples.
Dixa Patel says sales have grown at her store, the Rundr Minimarket in East Grinstead. “I hope 2006 will be even better. There are a few things I want to change, so I hope to invest in my business in the next year,” she says.
But Patel has faced a lot more competition over prices. “I can compete with these in most cases, but I have to keep a careful eye on items such as wine in the multiples, so that I can try and offer a better deal to customers.”
Michael Carden says he saw a shaky start to 2005 at his store, Davey’s Wine and Spirits in Redhill. But sales picked up around the summer and are up on last year’s figures. “I am quite positive about 2006,” he says. “But I think there is a lot less cash about and I have seen a huge increase in sales on credit.”
While Carden hasn’t faced any increased competition in the area in terms of new stores, he continuously has to look at new services to develop customer loyalty. In the past few years he has implemented PayPoint and mobile phone top-up services.
“I have some concerns about the extended licensing laws enabling supermarkets to sell alcohol over a 24 hour period,” says Carden. “I think I will certainly lose a bit of business because of this, especially as there are a large amount of residents in this area who do shift work around Gatwick.”
But Carden is positive about the future. He recently moved from much smaller neighbouring premises and next year he plans to knock the two stores into one.
High street store Ford Newsagents in Horley had a tougher time this year. Owner Zarana Patel says sales are down as a result of a nearby Tesco offering the Lotto. “We have a few supermarkets nearby including a Tesco and a Tesco Express, but we have never been too affected by these until Lotto went into Tesco,” she says.
“It’s a shame, especially as Lotto began in the independents.”
Patel has tried all sorts of things to increase sales, such as offering video and DVD rentals, which she says has only been moderately successful.
One area of innovation that does look as if it has potential,though, is her recent addition of home-made curries.
“I really think there is the potential to offer good quality curries from my region of India in this prepared meals format,” says Patel. “I might consider other areas of fresh foods such as salads at lunchtime to complement the sandwich range I have.”