THE SPAR-BP forecourt in Wisbech (pronounced ‘whiz-beech’), Cambridgeshire, is brilliant at working with the community. It offers free car washes to emergency services. It gives £1,000 to a panel of its customers to distribute to good causes as it sees fit. It gives staff an extra two days off work a year to spend with volunteer groups, and it even recycles the rain water to use in its power washer. They used locally sourced building materials to construct the shop, the staff’s uniforms are made by a local manufacturer and all of their staff live if not in the town itself then in the surrounding area. Many of their most popular lines such as wine and eggs are produced within 10 miles of the store. (Before my visit I had never even heard of Elyssian wine – which is produced in neighbouring Ely).
The shop is part of the excellent James Graven group, and the community liaison manager Caroline Bosworth told me it is all about being a face that people recognise. They had to jump through all manner of hoops to win permission for the site but since opening their doors two years ago, the amount of good will their actions have fostered has really paid off. Its no coincidence that having invested so much in the local area they have had not a single complaint from the homeowners literally a stone’s throw from the station – many of whom had vociferously opposed the store before it was built. And some of them have even become regular customers – taking advantage of the convenience that a nearby forecourt offers. Next up, the store is due to take part in a summer sports day and organize a drawing competition for the town.
What are the best ways other retailers have found to get involved with the community?