Couple set to bow out of business that has delivered news for 90 years
PUBLISHED: 10:14 25 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:26 25 February 2020
A couple at the helm of a family-run Norwich newsagent which has been delivering the news for 90 years will bow out later this week.
For John and Sylvia Howell, who are retiring after 47 years on Saturday (February 29), it marks the end of a family dynasty in the newspaper business.
The Magdalen Road-based newsagent started in the 1930s when Sylvia's uncle, Albert Bird, used his trade bike to collect copies of the Evening News and Eastern Daily Press from the print works in Redwell Street.
After his nephew Walter was demobbed from the Army after the second world war, he joined the business until it became J T & SM Howell in 1972.
In the 1970s, sales of evening papers flourished and at one stage, Mr Howell's army of almost 40 paperboys and girls delivered 1,400 copies of the Eastern Evening News six days a week.
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Mr Howell said: "We used to have a queue out of the door waiting for copies. On my first Wednesday I took £16 and our first week's takings were £300."
Mr Howell, who then began selling Sunday newspapers having taken over another newsagent, built up the convenience trade and shop. He was a founder member in 1974 of a newsagents' buying group, which expanded into IDEAL (Invoice Discount East Anglia Ltd) with membership of almost 300 shops across Norfolk. Under his chairmanship, it achieved turnover of around £10m annually.
A three-time president of Norfolk branch of the National Federation of Retail Newagents, he served two-year terms from 1982, 1986 and 1990. He was a president of the NFRN for the eastern counties and also held national office.
Mr Howell said: "I've seen some changes in the past half a century in the shop. I never thought that I'd sell more bottles of milk each day than copies of The Sun."
More than 150 customers, friends and newsagents attended a surprise party at the Whalebone pub to mark their retirement, including one of his first paperboys, Brian Rose, who later became shop manager.
Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, signed a retirement card at the party and thanked the couple for their decades of support to the community.
Mr Howell hopes to now play more golf, do some gardening, get the caravan on the road and take his 1932 Austin Seven for a spin when not watching Norwich City.
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