Posted by: dorsetcpre | September 22, 2014

Dorset residents are being encouraged to up their spending on village and community shops

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 Dorset Campaign to Protect Rural England 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 Village Stores with Iwerne Minister’s Village Stores a close runner up.

Village shop - Winfrith Village Stores. Winner 'Best Village Shop' in Best Dorset Village Competition 2014

Village shop – Winfrith Village Stores. Winner ‘Best Village Shop’ in Best Dorset Village Competition 2014

“Dorset CPRE was very pleased to be sponsoring once again a class of the Dorset Best Village Competition organised by Dorset Community Action, after a gap of some years. We were asked to suggest a new class and we thought Best Dorset Village Shop was a good one given the difficult situation village retailers find themselves in. 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.

“Overall we are hoping this competition will highlight the better retailers and show others what can be done too. The criteria used for this award were evidence of good customer service, the shop acting as a community hub, innovation in terms of product range and services, and how much local food they are selling and promoting.”

Best shop - Rupert Hardy and George Scott from the Iwerne Minster Village Stores which was runner up in the competition - photo courtesy Dorset Echo

Best shop – Rupert Hardy and George Scott from the Iwerne Minster Village Stores which was runner up in the competition – photo courtesy Dorset Echo

Pascal Surret, Winfrith Village Stores, receives the ‘Best Village Shop’ award from Rupert Hardy, Dorset CPRE. Photo taken by Dorset Echo

Pascal Surret, Winfrith Village Stores, receives the ‘Best Village Shop’ award from Rupert Hardy, Dorset CPRE. Photo taken by Dorset Echo

Village shop -Winfrith Newburgh Village Stores - left to right Liam Barrett (youngest employee), Rupert Hardy and owner Pascal Surret

Village shop -Winfrith Village Stores – left to right Liam Barrett (youngest employee), Rupert Hardy and owner Pascal Surret

Mr Hardy said the winners of the competition, Winfrith 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.”

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