It’s no secret that small, independent businesses often suffer at the hands of large corporations. But when one shop owner in England found himself on the wrong end of a court order over his store’s name, he decided he wasn’t going to sit and take it. Instead, he resolved the situation in the most hilariously perfect way possible.
Jel Singh Nagra, 42, lives in North Tyneside, a borough located in the north east of England. There, he runs a local grocery shop which was once called Singhsbury’s. And if you’re familiar with U.K. supermarkets, you’ll realize why his shop name drew such ire.
Yes, Singhsbury’s is of course a perfect riff on the popular U.K. supermarket chain Sainsbury’s. And while pretty much everyone found the name of Nagra’s store rightly hilarious, it seems that the company itself didn’t take too kindly to the adaptation of its name.
And so, in 2012, the nationwide chain presented Nagra with a letter threatening legal action if he didn’t change the name of his shop. Sainsbury’s didn’t just take issue with the name, however. Indeed, the company also objected to the store’s logo and sign, which were similar to that of the larger supermarket.
Of course, Britain is well known for its punny shop and business monikers. From printer ink store Alan Cartridge – a riff on TV character Alan Partridge – to moving company He-Van: Movers of the Universe, there’s really no end to the absurdity of the U.K.’s tendency for clever names.
In the Scottish town of Hawick, for instance, you’ll find a canine grooming store called “A Hair Off The Dog.” Meanwhile, Ayrshire in Scotland is home to not only music store “Ayr Guitar,” but gents’ barbers “Dan-Druffs.” (You can stop groaning now.)
None of those, however, skirt quite as close to an official store name as Singhsbury’s did. And yet, by the time Nagra took over running the shop from a family member, it had already borne its moniker for two years. As if that wasn’t reason enough to object, there are also plenty of other stores around the U.K. with a similar name.
Indeed, a number of Singhbury’s and Singhsbury’s exist around London, for instance – none of which have apparently ever been asked to change their names or remove their signs. And some of these shops, like one situated in Paddington, are even based on the same street as an actual Sainsbury’s store.
Despite all this, however, the letter threatening legal action that Nagra received also warned of expensive court costs if he argued his case. Alas, there was nothing he could do – and so, while he was away on honeymoon, Nagra’s family took down the sign, presumably begrudgingly.
However, Nagra’s customers inevitably missed the witty appeal of the shop’s name. “People up here love banter,” he told The Guardian in June 2017. “Some of the locals just come in the shop for the banter.” It seemed, then, that something had to be done.
Meanwhile, people were still referring colloquially to Nagra’s shop as “Singhsbury’s.” So, with encouragement from his loyal customers, Nagra decided to employ the same tactics for his shop’s new name. And as a result, he came up with an ingenious solution to his problem.
Indeed, this time, Nagra decided to base the name of his store on a different, rival British supermarket, Morrisons. You can probably see where this is going: yes, Nagra’s shop is now called Morrisinghs. And it’s made absolute waves – not only with his customers, but with people all over the world.
Unfortunately, Morrisinghs isn’t perfectly placed for attracting new customers. Indeed, the nearby Post Office closed down, and the street it resides on is a dead end – so very few people pass through. To that end, then, Nagra’s novelty naming strategy appears to be a fundamental part of his business strategy.
“The sign makes us a talking point,” he told the Daily Mail. “They talk about it in the pubs and the clubs and the restaurants… I do feel that the sign is bringing more business in. If I get asked to take this one down I will fight for it.”
While the new sign cost the independent shop owner a sizeable $450 to install, Nagra insisted that the money was “well spent.” And judging by the reaction he’s had to it, he’s not wrong. Indeed, he posted a picture of it on his Facebook page – and racked up a whopping 10,000 shares in the first 24 hours.
With all the attention the sign was getting, it wasn’t long before the media descended on Nagra and his store. In fact, he even ended up on national television, with his friends quickly getting in touch after seeing him on Sky News. He told The Guardian that his aim was to put his local area “on the map,” and it seems he’s certainly done that.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Sainsbury’s told The Guardian, “We were grateful to Mr. Nagra for removing the sign.” But more important, perhaps, was the reaction of Morrisons to Nagra’s latest choice of name. After all, there was no way he wanted the stress of possible legal action all over again.
Thankfully, rather than clamping down as Sainsbury’s did, it appears the rival supermarket has taken the name in good humor. “Mr Nagra and his customers obviously have good taste so we wish him well,” a spokesperson from Morrisons said.
Indeed, Nagra’s risk-taking appears to have paid off this time. Or at least he seems to have picked the right supermarket to base the name of his store on – that is, one that won’t chase him down for copyright infringement.
When he was first hit with the takedown request from Sainsbury’s, then, Nagra looked set to be just another casualty of large corporations. Luckily, his masterstroke of choosing another witty moniker should hopefully ensure that his business isn’t going anywhere soon.