From the age of 15, Kalpesh spent seven years working at his father’s Indian restaurant, but it was a stint working at clothing chain River Island where he went from cashier to floor manager in just 18 months, that really gave Kalpesh the retailing bug.
So when a shop went up for sale next to his Dad’s Indian restaurant, he jumped at the chance to run his own business, but there was a lot of work to be done to bring the store up to scratch.
“The store had previously been run by an older gentleman, who had run it for 30 years and had a lot of older customers,” explains Kalpesh. “I wanted the store to interest younger people as well, so we started stocking different types of energy drinks and different flavours of beers and alcopops.”
Store: Parmar Trading, Totton, Southampton
He also takes advantage of having his Dad’s restaurant next door by running cross-business promotions. “If people buy a curry next door, we’ll give them a discount on Cobra,” he says. “You’d be surprised how many people come in from next door with their takeaways!”
“Working at my Dad’s restaurant taught me about the importance of customer service,” he says. “It’s not just about service with a smile, it’s about learning their needs and wants. I know my customers by name and will personally order specific wines and ciders for people. I’m always chatting with people about their likes and dislikes and the football and we’ll often meet up in the pub after work for a drink or watch the footie together.”
His social skills are also a key networking tool. “I speak to a lot of other retailers, we’re always talking business. They might recommend a good milk supplier or a piece of equipment. Sometimes if we all want to use the same supplier, we’ll get together and negotiate a cheaper price. Some people are still keeping to themselves, which is unfortunate. It’s good to have friends in the industry.”
Kalpesh’s next plan is to buy the neighbouring stationers and then double the size of the store.