Itteringham Village Shop has survived two civil wars and outlasted 16 monarchs, but it nearly all came to an end when an eviction notice was served earlier this year.
Shop manager Mercy Yates says: “We were very upset and frightened. We thought the community we’ve built around it could all be lost. It would have been devastating.”
The shop, which has been a community-owned store since 1994, was saved in September after the local community persuaded the district council to buy the property from the landlords and rent it back to the shop.
With newly-found stability, Mercy told Retail Express that they are looking to the future. “I’m excited. When we were fighting to save our shop it was all about running the store day to day, now we’re looking to grow our local supplier base, our ranging and our commitment to the community,” she says.
Despite having just 1,100sq ft of floor space, the store helps organise and host pop-up cinema events and open garden days, while also providing the community with a cafe, post office and shop.
Explaining how the store achieves so much with the space available, Mercy says: “We have an incredible skill base and we all have our individual strengths that we use to make the space work. For instance, Jenny takes care of the cards section and moves and changes that as she thinks is best and Dennis looks after all our pet foods and bird seeds.”
The store is run by a committee, but staff members and volunteers are given a high degree of freedom. “While you are on shift, it’s you that makes the decisions” she says.
Asked how the store juggles this freedom with co-ordination and strategy, Mercy says: “We’re always answerable to the shop and the community. We keep that in mind and it keeps us working towards the same goals.”
These goals include the same focus on revenue as you’d find in any other profit-driven c-store. She explains: “The funds we raise through the shop all go back into the community, and we are part of that so we’ve got a very strong personal commitment to its
Part of this is making the most of summer tourism – the shop has five-star TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook ratings and attracts visitors from a nearby National Trust estate.
Another part is tapping into local demand. “We’ll get as much as we can from local suppliers, it’s not about being artisanal, it’s just the way the community likes to shop,” explains Mercy.
It’s also down to focusing on providing products that can’t be found in a supermarket, and catering for seasonal demand.
“This Christmas we made sure to increase the number of ‘nice to haves’ we range. Things like Eastgate medlar jellies and Samphire pork pies. It’s special luxury purchases that people want while they are at home over Christmas time.
“We also did ‘one offs’ – things that we wouldn’t have at done other times of the year like Martin’s Farm turkeys and other local meats.”
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