Winter weather brings boost to region's 'local shops'

Jon Welch Most of us will be glad to see the back of the snow and ice, but perhaps not our local shopkeepers. The cold snap has provided them with a welcome boost in business, but they hope their new-found customers will not melt away with the snow.

Jon Welch

The snow and ice of recent weeks may have cost the British economy billions of pounds, but it has been good news for local retailers.

Village shops have reported a boost in business as weather conditions made driving either difficult or impossible, forcing many people to look to local stores for household essentials.

Shopkeepers are now hoping people will remember they were there when they needed them and will continue to support them once the last of the snow has melted.

Among the shops to have seen a boost in trade was Candy Cave, one of two convenience stores in Shipdham, near Dereham.

Owner Juliet Madden said: "The bad weather has helped us. We were extra-busy. We did quite a good trade. People were coming in and buying things like bread, milk, sugar, coffee - all the general things you tend to run out of - and newspapers. We also sold a lot of cigarettes.

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"We saw quite a few new faces, which was very good for us. Hopefully they liked what they saw and the service and they will come back. If people could come in just once a week, that would help us during tough times."

One customer, a woman in her 80s who asked not to be named, said Candy Cave and the village post office had been a godsend.

"I don't know how older people would have managed without them in this cold weather," she said.

John McDonald, owner of The Village Stores at Little Melton, near Norwich, said business for the four weeks over Christmas and New Year was 25pc up on last year's figure.

"We were extremely busy. People come out of the woodwork, that's for sure," he said.

"We had quite a few older people ringing up, asking if we would deliver because they couldn't get out, and we did, as and when required.

"We couldn't get deliveries of milk from our usual wholesaler so we went out and got some from various suppliers for our customers.

"We've got quite good support from the village but we've seen a few more people than we normally see. We've been here before, though. People tend to use us on a regular basis and then drift back into the big places like Tesco.

"That's just the way it is but yes, I hope they will remember who was here when they were stuck in the villages in bad weather."

Mr McDonald said he accepted people would not do their weekly shop in stores such as his, but added: "It doesn't take a lot to keep these places running. Take an average family shopping budget of �150 a week: if they were to spend 10pc in their local shop that would go a long way."

High Kelling Post Office, stores and tea room, near Holt, carried on much as normal through the icy weather.

"We took it for granted that we would stay open," said owner Jan Kemp. "All the staff were very good. There was only one day when someone didn't make it in because their car had broken down.

"If people wanted groceries taking out, we did that, and we made sure some of the older ones were still doing OK. We ran out of frozen stock and vegetables, and the milk and bread just disappeared off the shelves, but all our deliveries got there in the end. We had a lot more hot soup going out as well.

"We just did what we normally do. People know they can rely on us. Everyone got what they needed from us."

Andrew Edmonds, of Bradwell Butchery, Bakery and Delicatessen, near Great Yarmouth said his newly extended shop had not closed over the cold snap and had benefitted from new custom.

The store sold out of chickens and bread as local residents decided to shop there instead of risking the icy roads to reach other stores.

Mr Edmonds said: "I think people who don't normally shop local decided to shop local in the recent weather because they could not go very far."

John Groom, who owns a butcher's in Bungay, said he managed to keep the shop open to its scheduled hours throughout the cold snap. He said staff ensured customers' deliveries were made as planned, despite road conditions within the town being quite bad.

"We have a 4x4 vehicle so that helped. Most of our deliveries are within the town but a couple are a bit further away," he said.

"We had a very good Christmas and the last two weeks since then have been very good. Local trade has been fantastic. Our hope is that once our new customers realise they have got good local shops with good local food they will continue to trade with us. I hate the snow, but long may it continue."

And while the deep freeze left national grit supplies at crisis point, Fakenham's problems were eased by the foresight of a local businessman.

Ashley Ward, owner of Ward's hardware store on Hempton Road, has been out across the town helping the public overcome the treacherous conditions.

Mr Ward, 49, foresaw the potential difficulties and ordered more than 32 tonnes of grit salt in July. The salt was then put to good use as the icy conditions began to affect people in the town, as well as many local businesses.

"We've be people helping a number of people, including the police and fire stations, and also the elderly homes in the area," said Mr Ward.

"Everyone has been more than helpful, and without the support of everybody, there is no way that I could have done what I have done."

Norfolk's local food delivery service provided a lifeline for snowbound pensioners unable to get out to do their shopping.

But as well as battling icy back roads to deliver online orders, Paul Campbell, director of social enterprise Norfolk & Suffolk Local Food, has collected vital prescriptions and done extra shopping for some customers.

The business delivers fresh goods produced in the two counties, ordered via its website,

"It's not been easy but we've managed to complete all our deliveries this week, and many of them are to elderly people who have not been able to leave home because of the ice and snow," said Mr Campbell, from Wacton, near Long Stratton.

"We've helped with people from Sheringham to Harleston with essential items, and I genuinely think it's just all part of the service and being a community business."

Violet Lawrence, 80, from Harleston, recently had knee replacement surgery and said the conditions were far too dangerous for either her or her 83-year-old husband Tom to set foot outside.

"I've banned Tom from leaving the house, because it's treacherous out there and one slip and you never know what could happen. Paul has provided a real lifeline and he's been a real local hero for us this week," she said.

Litcham Post Office Stores, near Dereham, stayed open during the heavy snowfalls. Staff also gritted the pavement outside the shop, and called vulnerable members of the community to make sure they had everything they needed.