Shipston on Stour’s independent retailers get European help

Photo shows: Paul Lowe, who manages Taste of the Country
Shipston retail

The strength of Shipston-on-Stour’s independent retailing will help see the town emerge from the Covid-19 crisis with its offer largely intact, according to major stakeholder.

Many local shops have re-opened in the last fortnight and with pubs and restaurants set to recommence trading this weekend, Shipston-on-Stour has started to emerge from the commercial lockdown.

Businesses are being now supported by Stratford District Council to promote the safe reopening of the High Streets in response to Covid-19 through the Government’s Reopening High Streets Safely Fund which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Taste of the Country – a deli, bakery and grocery store in Market Place – has continued to trade throughout the crisis while its sister businesses The Bower House restaurant has offered a takeaway service.

Paul Lowe, who manages Taste of the Country and lives in the town, believes customer loyalty to local businesses has seen many pull through.

He said: “Shipston-on-Stour has a high degree of local shops and businesses which are run by people from the town and the surrounding area and I think that has massively helped. Customers know the owners and the staff, and that familiarity, as well as loyalty, has certainly meant that we have been busy.

“People feel comfortable and safe in the local environment and that has helped them as well as the local businesses.

“The town still has its butcher, baker, greengrocer and hardware store and there are a couple of locally-owned boutiques, and I know that many towns have lost that local feel.

“Likewise, it will be great to see pubs and restaurants opening up again, and although things are restricted and numbers controlled, it is another step back to a more normal life.”

Taste of the Country is celebrating its 15th year in the town and by continuing to trade it has also helped local food producers to keep operating through the pandemic.

Caroline Warren, who is a director of the businesses, said the first few weeks had been very testing but more recently the shop had been trading above its average for the time of year.

“I think everyone was frightened in the first few weeks, and I cannot praise staff highly enough for continuing to work through and help people with essential supplies,” she said.

“People have been very sensible throughout in terms of social distancing and they have fully appreciated the restrictions under which we have been working. We did local deliveries as well to ensure that all our customers could continue to buy from us.

“We have kept our bakery at Alscot trading, while our local supplies have maintained deliveries and stocks which has been massively helpful, and our average spend per head has actually been up. That has meant we have remained open and kept people in jobs which is good for everyone.

“I think that this dreadful time has illustrated the importance of having strong and varied local economies and hopefully that is a lesson which has been learned for the longer term.”