‘Truly Local’ shop boosts local economy by £700,000 over last six years

A Norfolk shop can boast that it has put over £700,000 back into the local economy as it prepares to celebrate its seventh birthday in March.

Truly Local, in Stalham High Street, stocks only goods grown, produced or crafted in the local area.  This means, utility-providers aside, it spends all of its turnover locally, supporting over 110 local producers and helping to boost the local economy.

“There really is no need to buy products from further afield,” said Truly Local director Mick Sims.  “There are some extremely talented producers locally, passionate about what they do, producing a huge range of top-quality, often unusual products.”

Despite stiff competition from the major supermarkets offering cut-price food, Truly Local will celebrate seven years of trading on 22nd March.

The shop is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company staffed partly by volunteers and pays only national minimum wage to paid employees.  With no shareholders to financially support, it does not haggle with producers over price and has lower profit margins on many of their products than many retailers.  “This means that our suppliers get a fair price for their goods and our customers get excellent quality and value,” explained Mr Sims.

“Many people think small independent shops like ours are expensive,” said Debs Coupe, who works in the shop and is the main buyer.  “But we’re just as competitive on many items as the big supermarkets.  And shopping in smaller shops can save you a lot of money, as you don’t get seduced by supposed offers on things which often end up getting thrown away!”

“So many people, particularly holiday-makers, say ‘Why don’t we have a shop like this near us?’,” said Ms Coupe. “They really appreciate having somewhere different to shop, offering more unusual, hand-crafted items rather than mass-produced products you can buy everywhere.”

“It’s amazing how just how much is produced locally,” said Ms Coupe.  “Whilst we might not be able to offer everything bigger stores can, because everything is local and therefore seasonal, what we have is of excellent quality because it’s produced on a smaller scale.  We know many of our suppliers personally, as we do many of our customers since they’ve been visiting us for a number of years.”

When the shop first opened, it only sold products from within 35 miles of the shop, this distance set to allow it to stock English whisky from St George’s Distillery at East Harling.   This distance was recently increased by a few miles to allow them to continue to stock Pooches Dog Biscuits’ which has moved to the Sandringham Estate.

“We couldn’t stop selling Pooches,” explained Ms Coupe. “They’re so popular with our customers and are a great-quality product so we decided to increase our area, though only marginally.  The majority of our goods are more local than that, for practical reasons, as it simply isn’t cost-effective for people to deliver to us or for us to collect from further afield. ”

“As time’s gone on, we’ve seen suppliers come and, sadly go,’ said Mr Sims.  “It is very concerning, what is happening with the British food industry.  Whilst the consumer can currently enjoy cheap fruit, veg and meat it’s the farmers that have to pay the cost of these cuts and this will, inevitably, lead to more and more of them going out of business.   If we’re not careful, in the future, there’ll be far fewer suppliers, far less choice and prices will inevitably go up.”
When Prince Charles visited the shop four years ago, following an invite from one of Truly Local’s customers, he pointed out that Truly Local was the only shop of its kind in the country.  “We still believe that’s true,” said Ms Coupe. “Whilst there are many other Community Interest Companies out there we think we’re the only one supplying only local produce from such close proximity.”

“We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved,” said Ms Coupe. “We’ve built up some fantastic relationships with our suppliers and customers and are proud to be able to offer something a little bit different.

“We even operate a barter system and swap surplus produce from people’s gardens for goods in the shop.  Last year we had a wide range of items you don’t see in many food retailers, such as local grapes, kiwi fruit, achocha (a Bolivian vegetable which was grown in Stalham), quince, medlars and gherkin plants”.

Truly Local can be found in Stalham High Street and is open 9.00am-5.00pm, Monday-Saturday.


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