Last November was the 5 year anniversary of David and I walking through the doors of Chilbolton Stores as the new owners. Enthusiastic and maybe just a little naive, at 33 I don’t think I was what most people expected of a shopkeeper but as I said at the time… I may not have retail experience but I am really good at shopping!
In hindsight the first couple of years were fairly straight forward, although it didn’t seem like it at the time. We had to cope with road closures, broken fridges, replacement tills, making our home watertight (a new thatch doesn’t come cheap) but the economy was buoyant and people were keen to support us. Introducing new ranges was relatively easy and caught on quickly.
Move forward to 2009 and things were a little different, the credit crunch had started to take hold and even in Chilbolton people were starting to feel the pinch. We had to work just that little bit harder, cutting costs where we could and really trying to differentiate ourselves. Customers would no longer buy things from us just because it was convenient, we had to give them things they couldn’t get elsewhere and then most crucially “tell them about it”.
The website and Facebook page were really born from a need to keep people informed about the refurbishment program at the beginning of 2010. With a grant from Hampshire County Council and SEEDA we were planning the most extensive works to the shop for many decades. There would be disruption and we needed to keep our villagers informed.
At the end of the work, I think everyone agreed it was worth the small amount of pain. The new layout is fresh and bright and makes running the shop much easier and more efficient.
We continued with the social media as it was popular and growing all the time, a competition to photograph your Chilbolton Stores Bag to win a Kindle was a highlight and it is the perfect place to tell people of new products and our regular wine tasting events. The website too has been popular, bringing in orders from further a field and many extra customers for our local free-range turkeys at Christmas… not just from the village but from around Hampshire.
So the last six months have been some of the best, the business is growing and we are ”leaner and fitter” from a period of austerity. I for one look back over the last five years fondly, I have always believed that you get out of something what you put in and that nothing really worth having comes easily. We have had many, many good times and made lifelong friends in Chilbolton and I don’t regret a moment. Here’s to 5 years and counting…