The team from Sulgrave Village Shop and Post Office have become a bit of a talking point, after being interviewed live on the BBC Radio Oxford breakfast show. They were asked about how they reached the Midlands regional shortlist for the 2019 Countryside Alliance Awards, or Rural Oscars, in the Village shop/Post Office category.
What a community can do
Sulgrave Village Shop and Post Office, opened in 2004 as a ‘not for profit’, community run business, in response to overwhelming demand from residents to have these services locally. Their website says, ‘The shop is a brilliant example of what a community can do if it puts its mind to it. The management committee, all volunteers, give around 90 hours of their time a week. Two part-time supervisors oversee stock, back office tasks and front-of-house shop and post office duties.
Based in what was the village reading room, the shop is tiny; customers often liken it to Dr Who’s Tardis! With trade increasing year on year, Sulgrave Village Shop is bucking the trend in declining sales in many retail outlets… and will provide an invaluable service for many years to come.’
Postmistress Ronnie said, “We accommodate all ages. We work with local schools and young people doing the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. And recently, we threw a 50th birthday party for John, our village postman for 30 years, as his father was before him. We’re now in our 15th year open, which we’ll be celebrating with a party later this year, to give back to the community.”
Giving locals a few of their favourite things
They stock the things their customers ask for and buy; daily essentials, pasties and sausage rolls, chilled food, frozen ready-meals, wines, hot drinks, with hot croissants and pains-au-chocolat at weekends. They’re an agent for a dry-cleaning service. They have a delicatessen and champion local produce: fruit, veg, free-range eggs, fresh bread, spice mixes, apple juice and cider vinegar.
Listen to their BBC radio interview
On 13 February, staff and customers from Sulgrave Village Stores and Post Office were interviewed live on BBC Radio Oxford, by Amy Johnston from the David Prever breakfast show.
Listen here (you may need to log in to the BBC) and fast forward to:
- 22:53 to 26:05 – Digby Lewis, volunteer, who coordinates award entries
- 54:26 to 57:35 – Robin Prior, Treasurer, on how they began - and are turning a profit
- 1:21:30 to 1:25:23 – Colin, aged 80, customer and lifelong resident of the village
- 1:51:13 to 1:54:07 – Jackie Lonsdale, Post Office and shop assistant volunteer
Jackie said, “I feel very proud and privileged to work here. The shop and Post Office complement each other. We provide great service. We do a lot of promotions, for Christmas, Valentine’s (hampers), things like that. It’s a hub. I work here, but I live in the next village - and I know more people here than I do in my own village!”
Ronnie’s postmaster tips
- Postmasters should be warm, efficient and discreet. Especially with the elderly generation, or small businesses, most customers are very private and need to trust you.
- Get customers 'on your side' by sharing (not pushing) products. If you offer high standards, customers will support and follow you.
- You, and your team will need diligence, passion and tenacity to overcome the many hurdles, but if you believe you’re the best, then show it.
Digby summed it up, “Positive feedback from our customers, together with the recognition from the Countryside Alliance and the media, is very rewarding for the many village residents who have contributed so much of their time and effort. It has created a huge sense of pride in what we all consider to be ‘Our Shop and Post Office’.”