‘Move with times or get left behind’

Knightswood Newsagent  in Glasgow is ready to face the future following a refit so complete it has left regular customers wondering if they have entered the right shop.

After 22 years with the same layout, retailer Tarun Thapar (above left) invested in a top-to-bottom refit, including the addition of a 7.5m remote chiller deck that has allowed him to reorganise and greatly expand his range of soft drinks.

HOW long should you go between refits? Pose that question and you’ll likely get a few different answers.
Ask shopfitters and they’ll tend to say that refits should be carried out every five to seven years. Among retailers, a refit every 10 or even 15 years may be preferred.
Tarun Thapar, of Knightwood Newsagents in Anniesland Road, Glasgow, decided 22 years was probably long enough to wait.
“You look around at other people’s shops and a lot are being done up now,” he said. “You’ve got to move with the times. Move with the times or get left behind.

The tobacco gantry is all that remains of Tarun’s old store, now standing behind a bespoke counter incorporating gums and hanging bags of confectionery.

“We could’ve run it another 20 years the way it was and I’m sure we’d have kept making money, but it was looking dated and that was getting to me. The change since the refit  is like night and day.
“Some customers actually walked through the door and went straight out again because they thought they were in the wrong shop. We’ve had mixed reviews. Some people don’t like change, but the main thing is business is up.”

We literally binned the shop, floor to ceiling. The only thing we kept was the tobacco gantry.

Tarun’s store is situated in a shopping precinct with Farmfoods and Tesco Knightswood Metro on one side, and Iceland on the other.
Though the business was still trading well as a CTN, last summer he decided to invest in a major refit and make it a more food-led operation.
He worked closely with shopfitter Vertex to create a plan that would maximise the retail space.

Pictures from before (above left) and after the refit (above centre) show how dramatically the exterior has changed.

“There was no set thing I had in mind. It’s not a tiny shop, but it’s not huge,” he said.  “In the end we literally binned the shop, floor to ceiling. The only thing we kept was the tobacco gantry. Everything else went.
“The big increase we’ve had is on chilled. That’s a game changer. Previously we had old-style single-door fridges dotted about the place. We had four or five of them. So we thought we’d swap them for one big one – almost eight metres – and it’s made a big, big difference.”
In terms of soft drinks, there’s not much that Tarun doesn’t stock now and trips are made to the cash & carry seven days a week to keep the chiller filled up.
Work on the walls and bays as well as the introduction of a central gondola have increased shelf space by 50%.
“Previously there was no central shelving unit,” said Tarun. “After bringing that in our general grocery range has grown a lot. I wouldn’t say it flies out the door, but we do keep a lot more of it and even with Tesco next door it goes quite well.

Above right, a drawing from shopfitter Vertex illustrates the new layout, including the central gondola that has allowed owner Tarun to introduce a greater range of grocery products.

“It’s just a different set-up now. More food-led. We used to sell a lot of toys and a lot of wool. We did away with the toys and kept some of the wool but in a different set-up.”
Wool can now be found in the back corner near the double-door freezer, introduced to store take-home ready meals.
“A lot of our customers are older folk living by themselves,” said Tarun. “When they go shopping, they just want a ready meal, a paper and a bottle of milk. They don’t want to go into Iceland or Tesco, and have to wander the whole shop and get stuck in a queue. They know us and they know they can come in here, find what they need quickly and have a blether.”
With customers in mind, Vertex installed an automatic door, taking away the old step and making the entrance much more welcoming for the elderly and parents with buggies. The floor was relayed with ceramic tiles for a better finish, a new suspended ceiling was fitted and LED lighting was installed, ensuring energy costs will be kept low.

Knightswood Newsagent offers a vast confectionery range including pick’n’mix and old-fashioned sweetie jars.

One feature that has been warmly received by staff is the new 14kw air-conditioning system Vertex installed.
“I know we don’t exactly get Indian summers here, but in the old shop, when we would get hot days, at the end of a shift you’d be physically exhausted from the heat,” said Tarun. “We’d be taking layers off and stocking shelves in flip-flops. On cold days you’d get the opposite problem. Now we can control it and it’s so much better. It’s a more comfortable place to work.”
The shop has been further modernised with the introduction of an EPOS system from MHouse Solutions, bringing Knightswood Newsagent into the 21st century.
“For 22 years it was like Open All Hours in here,” said Tarun. “That was the kind of till we had. We kept all the prices in our heads.
“Now we scan everything through the MPOS. It’s a good system and it means no matter where you are, even sitting at home, you can keep track of your sales.”
A store that is easier to shop and better to run, Knightswood Newsagent’s tranformation has left the team and their customers delighted.
“I’m already forgetting what it used to be like and that’s after 22 years of it being the same way,” said Tarun. “It feels like I’ve got amnesia.”