Circumstances beyond his control made 2016 quite a tough year for Jon Powell. However, a little initiative and a lot of hard work has ensured his business is still providing the goods.
How would you describe your shop?
We are a CTN based within Newport market. Our customers are predominantly elderly as you don’t find that many young people in the market. We sell a lot of newspapers and have a good range of weekly magazines. In the summer season, we burst alive with a triple-barrel slush machine, Mr Whippy machine and, during the hottest months, we have up to 34 flavours of ice cream available. I have bi-folding doors which lead out to the street so we can serve from the front of the shop. We are well known for our ice-cream.
What do you like about being a retailer?
I’ve always enjoyed it because I like talking to people and getting involved in the community. There are a lot of traders in similar situations here and we all get along well and help each other out. This job is different every day – whether good or bad – and I love the buzz of working in a shop. I enjoy working for myself but also alongside my wife, brother and son.
What sort of work have you done with your community?
I help organise local shop events in Newport such as Small Business Saturday and Independence Day in July. We set out stalls in the market and high street for anyone who wants to try selling locally and show their wares to a greater audience. We have done two for the last five years, and last time the council waived the licence fees at our insistence. We also produce unique reusable shopping bags for the event and locals like to collect them. I generally find out about events, such as Record Store Day – which I also get involved in – through Twitter. I am also part of an online group called Newport Rises, which promotes local businesses and events.
How was business last year?
I moved to a bigger shop in the market in November 2013 which was going well until they redirected all the buses in December 2015. Overnight there was a 70% drop in our takings so I have had to diversify. I started home deliveries of newspapers, bread, milk and toilet paper and we now deliver to 450 houses and businesses. Our income stabilised, and is now growing, although it has involved a lot of hard work (getting up at 4am, etc.). I am picking up deliveries from businesses who no longer want to deliver and last week was subcontracted by a local paper to do their deliveries. It has been a difficult time but there is a real appetite for home delivery and lots of scope to increase the business in that area.
Do you work closely with manufacturers on product ranging and merchandising?
News UK is very hands on and there is always a rep around and in contact on social media. The i newspaper is very good too, as are the tobacco companies. We are with Imperial tobacco and have had massive support from them. They provided us with doors for our cabinets, have already changed displays for plain packaging and offer good advice and incentives as well.
What would you be doing if you were not a retailer?
I have been a retailer since 1998 and before that I worked in a hotel, so I’d probably still be in the hotel game and I wouldn’t know how much fun having a shop is.
And finally, but crucially, what is your favourite product in your shop?
The ice-cream without any shadow of a doubt – salted caramel is my favourite. It is also the best product to sell as people leave with a smile on their face.
You can follow Jon on Twitter: @thenewsagent