David Charles, the owner of Grantham Computer Centre, tells Jade Burke about the business’ transition from gaming to incoporating computer repairs and cloud products, and why their customers prefer them to PC World…
How did the company first begin?
It was November 1989. I opened it on my own and when I first started the business we just did games and consoles, we didn’t do anything with PCs.
We used to do things with games consoles like the old Commodore 64 – what we’d class as retro stuff now. And as PCs became more popular we decided to branch out into that market.
What products and services do you offer?
It is all PC-based now, so we sell everything and anything. Obviously we do repairs, on- site repairs, networking and all the usual kind of stuff really.
What types of repairs do you carry out?
We do laptop and desktop repairs. We can do phone repairs, but we don’t generally have the time to do them. Imagine all the repairs that we do do. So we will do it for the customers, but we don’t necessarily offer it as a service.
Do you stock or are you thinking about stocking any photography products like cameras?
We do stock SD cards and software like Photoshop and Paintshop Pro. We have sold digital cameras in the past but only when we can make money out of it.
When they become more popular and all the big boys get involved, there’s no money in it anymore.
What’s been your biggest growth area recently?
Recently growth area wise it will probably be repairs. Repairs and servicing seems to have become very busy in the past two years.
We also have the local paper called The Journal, and they awarded myself with Businessperson of the Year this year. All that stuff generally, honestly nudges people to remember what we are and where we are. We’ve got a PCWorld in town and I think it just gives customers that nudge to think: “We’ll go there rather than PC World.”
Do you find it difficult to survive on the High Street against other larger chains?
Generally no, because of our customers. I think most of our customers are probably 50 plus, and they want service – they’re not bothered about saving a pound here or a pound there. They realise that this misinformation that larger chains are cheaper generally isn’t the case. They might be cheaper on whatever it is they’ve got on offer that week, but generally with cables and ink cartridges they’re dearer than us.
Do you use social media at all? How important is that to your business?
We use Facebook and Twitter. Anything you can to keep people aware of you and generate more business is important, and Facebook and Twitter don’t cost anything.
Do you sell Office 365 or any cloud products, or do you focus more on hardware?
We sell 365 and we do a fair bit of software, as it’s obviously an attachment to new machines anyway. Also a lot of the people we sell machines to are single users, so we sell more Office 2014, but our business clients will have 365.
What plans do you have for the future?
Generally, amongst anything else it’s about keeping on giving a good service and going from there really. I think service is the main thing. The reason our customers keep coming back is because of the service that we give them.
Do you think you’ll look at stocking any new products?
It depends on what comes along. Obviously, there has been a growth in tablets so we sell tablets now, whereas we didn’t a few years ago.
Do you have any advice for any new indie stores?
The main thing is to offer a good service. If you offer a good service, people will keep coming back. A lot of your business comes from word of mouth by the service that you’ve given. The amount of customers we get coming in, saying: “My next-door neighbour’s son comes in here and says we’d ought to come and see you.”