An independent Surrey retailer is set to shake up his local high street with an innovative new store concept designed to boost community engagement.

David Worlsford of Farrants in Cobham is investing almost £1m in an ambitious plan which will see him treble the size of his £1,000 sq ft CTN store. 

He will add a host of novel features and services including a gift wrapping department, handmade chocolates and chocolate-making workshops plus a ‘kids zone’ with confectionery, toys, bean bags and games.

“We’ll hold monthly forums and invite kids and their parents to come in and check out new toys,” David told C-Store.

The store’s specialist pens range will also be extended, and ‘handwriting workshops’ run for local children.

A large L shaped sofa and hot drinks to go machine will also be added to the front of the store by the news and magazines section, which is also adjacent to David’s confectionery, food to go and soft drinks offer.

“Women tend to come in and read through the magazines before actually choosing one to buy so I thought, ‘well why not encourage them to sit down and have a hot drink while they’re at it.’ If they buy the magazine, great, but if they don’t I’ll probably have made more money on the coffee anyway, and besides the magazines are all on sale or return,” he added.

The new store, which will also feature a ‘shop within a shop’ to house David’s specialist tobacco range of fine cigars and pipe tobacco, will also boast a secure ‘smoking room and cigar lounge’ in the converted basement.

“My plan is to totally change the way in which a newsagent functions. I want the store to become a real community hub, a place where people can come in their leisure time and shop while they are at it,” he said. 

He is also thinking of adding a smoking shelter with heaters at the rear of the store which can be accessed from the street.

”It would enable local office workers to have a dry warm place to smoke rather than huddling in dripping doorways. If they come in to purchase things while they are there, great, but that’s not the main aim, it’s more about generating good feeling and cementing ourselves as a community hub,” he added.

“The staff are all so excited by the prospect, they already possess huge amounts of expertise on the store’s specialist categories: tobacco, confectionery and pens but they’ll also be attending extra training courses. My plan is to have two staff always at the counter and then the rest will be store walkers. Their main job won’t be to merchandise, we’ll try to keep us much of that for after closing time, but to interact with shoppers.”

The work is set to commence in June after David expands into the shop next door.