A local friend
For retailer Anamakia Patel, taking on a post office was a chance to embrace a family tradition
Anamakia Patel’s path to running a Post Office has been far from usual. Up until a year ago, she’d hardly set foot behind a shop counter – let alone dreamt of managing a thriving 60sqm2 community store and Post Office in London’s leafy Little Venice. Instead, Anamakia had enjoyed a high-flying career as an IT consultant for Dell, working with high-profile clients such as the NHS.
After a career break to have children, she decided to take on a shop to stay driven. Her husband’s family already has a diverse portfolio of eight 24/7 stores in central London but were looking for something different. When a community store on the local high street came up, they jumped at it.
“This shop wasn’t in their niche,” Anamakia explained. “But they thought it would be ideal for us to take on.”
The personal touch
With her husband lending a hand in his free time, Anamakia began establishing her store as a community hub. A vital part of that process was being responsive to customers’ needs, she said.
“Our customers like to support independent businesses,” she said. “The area is so diverse and that’s reflected in our magazine and newspaper selection. We stock a lot of imported publications. I still don’t know the full range!”
But it’s also about the personal touch. “My main tip is kill them with friendliness,” Anamakia laughed. “For instance, a lot of our customers have annual subscriptions to papers, so when they go on holiday, we keep them behind the counter for them. Developing rapport like that is so important.”
A one-stop shop
Anamakia and her husband were persuaded to add Post Office services when they were contacted by a Post Office representative in July 2018. Anamakia said: “There was a Main Branch Post Office, but it closed, so when they approached my husband to take on the store, he saw it as a good way of filling the gap.”
Having Post Office services in store has proved a boon. “Lots of people are really happy, especially since the other branch closed. We know the customers and they know we’re the go-to people for cards and the like. We’ve got an advantage that way.”
But, Anamakia cautions, running a Post Office takes time and planning. “My main advice would be to plan the layout,” Anamakia said. “We had a Post Office consultant come in who said that we should have laid it out differently. There’s no flow currently. If there’s a post office queue, it’s not clear whether the shop is free. We get people coming in, seeing it, and turning away.”
Anamakia explained that pricing can also be an issue. “Prices went up in March, and they weren’t meant to, which elicited some customer complaints.”
But overall, Anamakia is convinced the experience of taking on a Post Office has been positive for her business. “It’s all about balance,” she said.