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Best Dorset Village Shop Competition 2019

2nd October 2019

Dorset CPRE was very pleased to be sponsoring again a class of this competition, which we started with Dorset Community Action six years ago.


Village shops face relentless competition from the supermarket chains and discounters, but we can say the shops, for now, seem to be holding their own, with fewer closures than in recent years.

One trend has been for more shops to belong to a symbol group

One clear trend has been for more shops to belong to a symbol group, such as Spar, to help their buying and provide marketing support. Another has been the higher proportion of quality local produce on sale, which we wholly applaud, although it is not always clearly marked as such, which is a pity. We should add that three years ago we also started a campaign to promote quality local food and drink producers. Overall customers seem more ready to appreciate the local convenience and provenance, and pay for it, as long as the shops are inviting, with friendly staff and enough stock. More shops are offering tea rooms which boosts footfall and generate higher margins. You will be glad to hear the war on plastic has been taken on-board faster in village shops than in the supermarkets, with more produce sold without packaging. Another factor has been the relative success of those located in south Dorset which see more tourists, with numbers boosted by sterling‘s decline since the Brexit Referendum and the recent heat waves.

Anyway this year we welcomed back Thorncombe Village Shop, and Chapel Lane Stores in Abbotsbury, as contenders as both were former prize winners. We would also like to praise the work done by the new managers of the Studland Stores, although the quality is not yet at the level of the others.

Chapel Lane Stores, Abbotsbury

Chapel Lane Stores in this tourist honeypot village was bought by the current owners only five years ago. Initially trading as an art gallery, it was expanded in 2016 when the village postmistress retired, thus incorporating a Post Office counter and extending the range of products on offer. The owners this year decided the shop needed more investment and they turned to Spar to help them out, but they can still sell local food too. New features include a huge new chiller. Their primary goal is to supply the needs of locals, and they seem very happy with the bigger and cheaper range of products from Spar. Service is friendly and this is clearly a great asset to the village. It is well placed for tourists too with a coffee machine inside and hot pasties-to-go.

Thorncombe Village Shop

Thorncombe is a charming village of 700 but it is difficult to find down narrow twisting lanes so the community-run shop has to try extra hard as there are fewer passers-by. It has an attractively painted frontage with a regularly changing seasonal window display. The café has recently been expanded. Everything seems to happen at the shop with even church goers regularly drinking coffee there after communion and there is a pop-up restaurant once a week. A lot of the fresh food is made by ladies in the village, and everyone seems to get involved. There is an excellent website too

The judges declared them both Joint Winners. Please do visit these shops. But do remember all Dorset village shops deserve your support!

Rupert Hardy
One of the judges


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