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The Paper Shop: Supporting customers, whatever’s in store

16 July 2020 Featured Business

The COVID crisis hasn’t been easy on retailers like Dave Dunn, who runs The Paper Shop newsagent and grocers in Skipton, North Yorkshire. But he’s shown real commitment to the community he serves. We asked him about his experiences of transforming a local newsagents into a invaluable delivery service for local residents.

How did you begin supporting vulnerable customers?

People called us to say they had to self isolate and would we do deliveries. We suggested that they rang up once a week with their orders. 

I then told the newspaper delivery boys and girls there’d be more customers on their rounds who’d need items dropping off outside their houses. The kids were happy enough, because they were off school and bored. 

I think the customers were bored too – I’ve never sold so many crossword puzzle magazines!

How did you support customers that still wanted to shop in store?

We made a real effort to keep staff and customers protected and at a safe distance from one another. I ordered a counter screen through Reposs which helped. And we got masks from local tradesmen who’d stopped working and said we could have whatever was left in their van, which was really good of them.

People said they felt safer here than at the supermarkets where there’s no social distancing. However, my staff are on the front line, so I told them not to work if they weren’t comfortable. But they all did.

Obviously, you had to consider yourself and your family too…

Yes, the shop’s only 75 square foot and filled with stock. We live on the premises and my son’s at risk, so I had to stay out of the way from 5 am until 6 pm.

It was busy busy busy.

I couldn’t even get a proper break in the garden because it faces on to a footpath where customers walked by! But, believe me, we’re grateful for their support. Very grateful.

Were there any learnings you took from your transformation?

We couldn’t believe the money people spent on milk. We had to fill up our family fridge to keep up with the demand. Eggs too – I used to do a dozen a week and now it’s a hundred boxes!

We’re also now cleaning the shop three times a day, wiping down handles and surfaces.

Covid has brought a lot more card payments too… and contactless, though customers need to remember their number in case the card machine does random checks.

Has Coronavirus brought along positives for The Paper Shop?

We’ve opened our doors to a lot of new customers by providing the in-store safe social distancing requirements that they need. Delivery has been the biggest success though, I think we’ve made 60-80 new customers. They’ve even said, “Without you being open, I don’t know how we’d have survived.” 


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