On a recent trip I visited what must be the good, the bad and the ugly of village shops. Having run a village shop with my wife for more than 20 years I do understand how important these businesses can be to the community they serve. The key to success is delivering the products that the community needs in an environment that shoppers are comfortable with.
The visit to ugly of the three stores started well with a direction sign on the main road telling drivers of its presence in the village. Unfortunately things went downhill from there as there were no other signs to direct potential passing trade to the store. After driving around the village my wife spotted the shop in a side road. It does have great car parking! We entered the store in expectation, but soon found disappointment with a poorly stocked shelves and an odd pricing strategy. Then there was the only assistant (or was he the owner) who was watching the TV at the counter. I did buy a carton of Euro-Shopper apple juice price marked at 75p, but we really were looking for bananas and they were too expensive at 35p.
The bad store is a symbol store that is well fitted and has a reasonable range. Unfortunately I think we must have visited the shop on a day when they were expecting a delivery as there were large gaps in their chill cabinets. The thing that caught my attention most were the hand written promotional sign-age in many places around the shop. The two members of staff were pleasant and one of them helped us find their bananas which were ‘displayed’ in a closed box on the floor, 4 for a £1 seem more reasonable.
I had high expectations of the good store which we visited as if is owned and operated by Independent Achievers Academy award winners Gail and Paul Mather. They did not disappoint, their store is bright, airy and as it has air conditioning probably the most comfortable place in the village on what was a particularly hot day.
They won their IAA award for Shop layout so it I was not surprised to find that they use the shop floor space that they have well. They have a great focus on their community and a wide range of local produce. Their biggest seller is the Sherston free range eggs which are laid less than a mile from their store.
To celebrate National Countryside Week they offered their customers a free pint of milk with every packet of cereal. Paul told me that the Prices Countryside Fund had given the community a grant to help secure the former school building for the village. They were also running a free to enter raffle for their customers to celebrate the week.
The community of Sherston is an important part of Paul and Gail’s lives and this is reflected in the space they give to local crafts people to sell the products.
This village shop is a truly independent business with a unique character that clearly matches the Sherston community well.