Croydon shop owners diversifying to beat economic downturn
DOZENS of shops in the south of the borough are providing goods and services outside their usual offerings, with shopkeepers saying they are adapting to meet customers' demands – whatever they might be.
"We want to give customers what they want," said Annette O'Flynn, owner of Farthing Books in Coulsdon, who has started offering bubble baths and birthday cards alongside her bargain paperbacks.
Joke shop novelties, children's games and perfumes are among the other items shoppers can now pick up next to the history works and romance novels at the store in Chipstead Valley Road.
Ms O'Flynn, who opened the shop just over a year ago, said: "We are responding to what customers have asked for. They can get other gifts along with their books."
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A few doors down the road, Amanda Davis has started offering bridal gowns and alterations alongside the glamorous clothes at her shop, iWoman. The bridal range – and the seamstress – come from the nearby Sunflower Cottage, which closed in December.
Ms Davis, who is chairman of the Coulsdon Business Partnership, said: "It is early days yet, but I am hoping it will grow as the town continues to regenerate."
In Purley, Alan Manley has started a roaring offshoot at Purley Sports, printing designs onto T-shirts, football boots and any other items customers care to decorate.
He said: "We started it in response to massive customer demand. There is no-one in the area who offers the same services.
"We get asked to do items for all sorts of things – children's parties and stag dos.
"It cost a few grand to get all of the equipment, but it was definitely worth it."
In Selsdon, Kiba Kitchen and Bathroom Solution in Addington Road sells DIY supplies from a showroom behind the store, and the owners are considering starting weekend plumbing workshops.
Naeema Reder, who owns the store with her family, said: "There are a lot of people in the area who would attend. Changing taps and other plumbing tasks can be easy once you know how, while plumbers are expensive.
"Selsdon is not a poor area, but there are still people who need things done around the house.
"Local shops can go the extra mile for them – and good word of mouth is much more powerful than advertising."
Nearby Aladdin's Cave, meanwhile, is a one-shop testament to the powers of diversifying. Selling everything from storage boxes to plants, it has stood on the high street for more than 20 years.
Manager Emily Mustafa said: "We specialise in everything. It is about keeping customers interested with different bits and bobs. Anyone who comes in and says, 'Have you got this?', we can help them."