Support Your Village Shop
7:12am 26th September 2014
Dorset residents are being encouraged to up their spending on village and community shops - and for councils to do more to help local stores.
The call comes after the county's Campaign to Protect Rural England group backed the 'Best Village Shop' category in this year's Best Village Competition.
"We would like to ask CPRE members and everyone else to help our village shops. If only each household spends a few more pounds each week in their local store; if only parish councils were encouraged to help these shops resolve local parking and other issues; if only all district councils were urged to give 100% business rates relief automatically then the situation would be so much brighter. Therefore please spend more and make your voice heard!" said CPRE spokesman Rupert Hardy.
The competition was won by Winfrith Newburgh Village Stores with Iwerne Minister's shop a close runner up. Winfrith Newburgh Village Stores are also previous winners of a Wessex FM Local Business Award.
"The competition from the supermarket chains has been relentless. Besides in and out-of-town major outlets, the chains now offer convenience stores and deliveries to every corner of the countryside so it is not surprising the number of Dorset village shops has fallen over 20% from 224 in 2006 to now, with more likely to close unless we help them," said Mr Hardy.
He says that CPRE's Constitution states: 'the objects of the branch shall be to seek to improve, protect and preserve for the benefit of the public, the countryside and the market towns and rural villages of Dorset.'
" In other words rural shops are at the very heart of CPRE's mission, offering a vital service to rural communities," added Mr Hardy.
He says that village stores can, and do, showcase local foods, and many have a post offices integrated into the stores with many shop owners, effectively, subsidising that service by keeping counters open for longer than they are paid to.
Mr Hardy said the winners of the competition, Winfrith Newburgh Village Stores, has attentive and welcoming staff, well presented stock with displays making the best use of the space and plenty of Dorset produce, prominently displayed.
"They are clearly trying hard to meet the needs of the community, with a delivery service and weekly visits to the local nursing home and supporting local charities. They are fizzing with new ideas, a monthly newsletter, a good website, a loyalty card and even online ordering."
He said that the judges found Iwerne Minster Village Stores attractive, well fitted out, with lots of local and freshly made products well presented, a mouth-watering deli section, a strong off-licence range and they bake bread daily. They do free delivery and open the Post Office section all day on a voluntary basis. They have a small café at the back.
"Overall it has the lovely feel of a traditional village shop, which is doing its best to help the local community."