Retail Goes Old School

Paul-matther2011 and 2012 were busy years for my wife and I. Our journey started by planning our village shop and Post Office business to take advantage of ‘new’ premises we were offered and ended it by being awarded the Independent Achievers Academy award for Shop Layout. Quite a ride.

My wife, Gail and I bought the village shop in Sherston, Wiltshire eight years ago as a life style changing career move. I had been a bank manager and Gail had worked for Marks & Spencer. We very much liked the shop in the village where we lived and thought something similar would suit us.

The shop we took over in Sherston was 450 square feet and in need of a refit. We did this after running the shop for 12 months and finding a shopfitting company that we felt understood our philosophy.

Our guiding principles are not to be like a Tesco Express, to be Disability Discrimination Act compliant and to support our community. I have to say meeting our aspiration to make our shop as easy as possible for wheel chair bound customers was a huge challenge in the small store we had at that time. As with all well planned store refits the investment delivered us a more effective store.

The next big change to our business was when the village school moved to a new site making the former Victorian building redundant. The old school is in the centre of the village very close to our original shop. When we were approached by the Parish Council about their project to buy the listed building though a community interest company we quickly became sold on the scheme.

After many meetings and much negotiation we were able to call in Mactra, the shopfitters we used in 2005 to plan substantially bigger new store. The shop unit created in the old school gave us a blank canvas to work with some complications due to its listed status. The most significant being the windows. We opened our new store in November 2011 with a two position Post Office and we have been very well supported by our community since then.

Our main supplier is Batleys who deliver to us once a week and our commitment to the local community in its broader sense has led us to develop a list of over 40 local and regional suppliers who give us a significantly different range to the national convenience store chains. Our range of beer includes products from 5 micro breweries and one of our big Christmas sellers were pickles and chutneys from Malmesbury based Tracklements.

I have found that running the business along side my wife is a great experience and this is enhanced by having defined roles. Gail manages the shop and I manage the Post Office. We do discuss the the issues and opportunities that come up for both parts of the business, but with clear responsibilities we both focus on delivering success without one of us becoming dominant.

More than a year on since we moved into our new premises we are delighted to be part of a new village asset that has now got tenants for the other five smaller units. Because our landlord is a community interest company we know that our village will greatly benefit by the new use of this old building.


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