Me and My Store: Chirag Mehta, New Holland News and Wine, Rickmansworth

Chirag Mehta arrived in the UK from Gujarat in 2006 to work in computer consulting, and has since added his busy high street store, run by him and his wife Hesha, to his entrepreneurial interests


How would you describe your store?

It’s a long-established, small, 600 square feet newsagent and convenience store, mostly news and confectionery, wine and so forth.

My wife, Hesha, looks after the shop – I have set up everything for her, and I have good staff. I guess you could say she runs 80 per cent of the business, but I deal with problems and troubleshooting.

Last year, in 2019, I did a complete refurbishment and changed the name from Hollands to New Hollands. I put my heart into it, my blood is in it, you know? The shop had a good reputation, naturally, after over 30 years.

What sort of trading area do you operate in?

I am on Rickmansworth High Street, and it’s almost all passing trade. When I arrived here I made sure to get to know everyone around. There are two schools close by, commercial offices and four supermarkets. My idea was that I don’t want 10 per cent or 15 per cent of their business – I want only one per cent. I achieved my target, and I’m very successful now, with probably 2.5 times more business than when I took over here.

How long have you been a retailer?

Five years as a retailer. Entrepreneurialism is in my blood to be honest. When I was 22 I started my own computer business in India, and then I came to this country and worked – still work – for Hewlett Packard as a computer service engineer consultant in the City for all the big clients.

What is the best and the worst thing about the job?

Here I like the job because I meet so many people. I like to get to know the people’s culture because I came from a different country back in 2006. The hardest thing is probably communicating with people who are quite elderly and don’t understand sometimes, that’s the toughest job but not bad in any way.

What is the biggest challenge in retailing?

Pricing is always difficult. It is human nature to compare from here and there, but still I’m surviving because my price was nominal – not too high, not too low. Once the people know that this is the price then they come to me. Cleanliness as well. If you come anytime, if you touch any fridge, it is always clean.

Do you think retailers get the respect they deserve from the local community?

It varies from person to person, and actually from my experience I get good respect from elderly people, so does my wife and my staff. I like most elderly people and I provide them with free delivery services – they just have to ring me. 

Do you find the suppliers’ category management plans work?

Absolutely. After my refurbishment I joined with Co-op and Nisa, and now I get 200 outers a fortnight from them and I follow their plans. At first they didn’t think I could reach their target  because I am a small space, but I do.

What brands or categories do you find bring more footfall into your store?

I stock a lot of American products, groceries and confectionery. Beer and soft drinks, Co-op branded goods. And I also stock good quality selected wines, not cash and carry wines! Customers come in and buy two or three bottles now.

How do you get up to date information on new products?

The reps come sometimes, or I see advertisements through the email or receive them in the post. I don’t read the trade press very much.

How much do your sales depend on seasons and weather?

Summertime is fine, no problem. It’s mainly when the rain in the winter comes that it gets completely dead sometimes. But we are in a commercial area with offices so there is a steady trade normally.

Do you get the support you need from the local police force?

Yes, of course,I always keep in touch with them. I like the police.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to your local retailer?

What’s the secret? Knowledge: stay on top of trends and be aware of your surroundings and what you need to do. Stay up to date and look around you, always.

What sections of the store work best for you and which are the most challenging?

Cigarettes and vapes are doing very well currently, and luckily I also have my American products. Beers and wines as I said are great. Newspaper-wise, I am still good – so many elderly customers still like their papers. The most difficult thing really is the storage space and managing that, because we are so small, and keeping track of what is out of stock.

What help/advice would you like to see most from manufacturers/suppliers?

Please keep in touch with the retailer and give promotions, you know. After refurbishing the store a few of the reps came to try to get me to sell their stuff. That’s the best idea – come and talk to us. This social media is fine, but they are invisible from my side.

Do you ever have customers asking for products they have seen on TV that you know nothing about?

Sometimes, yes, and then I will try to stock it for them. They let me know.

If you were to give up your store tomorrow, what would you like to do?

I will never give up, my friend!