Cumbria Crack

Cumbria shops in the running to be named Britain’s Best Small Shop of 2020

Richardson’s Of Whitehaven

Two Cumbria shops – a wine shop in Whitehaven and a gin shop and distillery in Ulverston – have been named on the shortlist of retailers in the running to be named Britain’s Best Small Shop of 2020.

Richardson’s Of Whitehaven is an independent wine merchant and coffee roaster in Whitehaven. It may be only 15 by 20 foot in size, yet it manages to offer a range of nearly 1000 fine wines, vintage ports and foods as well as roasting its own coffee beans in store. It offers discounts to local residents as well as to the Emergency Services (Blue Light Card) and current armed forces and veterans (Defence Discount Card). It started to re-use card delivery boxes to reduce plastic waste a few years ago and at first, customers thought they were eccentric offering them an old box or reused bags, whereas now customers ask for them. Its new store epos and payment system also enables it to offer e-gift cards which have proved popular as well. It has regularly organised evens throughout its 25 years in business, bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors to the town.

Zoe and Andrew Arnold-Bennett, Shed 1 Distillery

Shed 1 Distillery is an award-winning gin shop and distillery in Ulverston, which offers gin gifts, artisan gin and handmade local gin distilled in the Lake District. It encourages customers to recycle through a bottle refill service which includes money off, plus money donated to charity for every empty bottle returned. Products for sale include six gins; a gin jelly marmalade made with excess fruit; two gin elixirs using foraged ingredients, and a gin fruit Cake. The shop offers Gin Tours and Tastings, Afternoon G&Tea and Cumbria’s first & only Make Your Own Gin Experiences. The shop obtained its Wedding license in June. It also offers Click and Collect service and free delivery for those unable to visit the Shed. Its online shop has free, nationwide, delivery.

The Best Small Shops competition is managed by the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC), whose member trade associations represent approximately 100,000 independent retailers throughout the UK between them. The competition celebrates the commitment and creativity of independent retailers on the UK’s High Streets and the central role they play in their local communities. It is sponsored by Maybe, an engagement platform that helps make social media work for independent retailers. The winner will be announced next month.

“This has been a particularly challenging year for small, independent retailers and many have come through to this point through innovation, quality of product and service, a commitment to serve their local communities and a large dose of determination,” explains Mark Walmsley, Chair of the IRC.

“As more and more people have been forced to stay home and work from home, we have seen just how much we all value local independent shops and want to see them not just survive, but also thrive. These shops offer choice, diversity and genuine customer service. And, after what has been a rather dark year, that has to be worth celebrating.”

In addition to the main award, both shops have also been shortlisted for a special award to be given to the independent retailer that has demonstrated specific innovation to combat the impact of COVID-19. This award is sponsored by booost, the loyalty, gifting and promotions app.

During lockdown, Shed 1 produced and gifted a sanitiser for a local hospice thanks to donations received from across Cumbria. The business maintained a high social media presence, including livestreams leading to increased online sales. All wholesale and walk-ins stopped until recently. The shop created an “at home” Make Your Own Bath Tub Gin Tin with link to a How-To video. Free local delivery and click and collect services were made available, including for an adapted Afternoon G&Tea.

When lockdown was imposed, the lack of footfall in the area prompted Richardson’s of Whitehaven to close for renovation. During that period, it kept the coffee roasting going but donated all of its roasts to the local hospital, ambulance teams, fire service and both the local police and the nuclear police at Sellafield. The renovation has led to a larger counter space with more room for staff to work with social distancing, a Covid screen and also a giant train set on an eight foot diameter track in the shop window, all of which has helped footfall considerably since reopening. The launch of the shop’s first ever web site during lockdown has enabled it to offer deliveries within 25 miles and kerbside collection as well as safe deliveries.

In addition, it decided to help increase footfall for the town as a whole by launching and part sponsoring a town wide exhibition of old town centre photographs. The images are all large scale and are displayed in shop windows to encourage people to walk around the town and re-engage with shops.

The annual competition highlights the best of Britain’s independent retail sector, celebrating the commitment and creativity of independent retailers and the central role they play in their local communities. Previous winners have included Bristol-based delicatessen Papadeli, the 2019 winner, and The Mainstreet Trading Company, a combined bookshop, café, deli & homeware shop based in St Boswells, in the rural Scottish Borders, which won in 2018.

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