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Friday, 05 February 2016

Independent shops in Cumbria

This morning I had the luxury of popping out to my local butcher to buy a chicken, six sausages and two pounds of mince. I say luxury because in many parts of Britain, the habit of using a small, family butcher is ‘so last century’. But this is Cumbria where family-owned shops - butchers, bakers, greengrocers, fishmongers, clothes shops and hardware stores - are still much in evidence. And thank goodness for that. Visit towns like Ambleside, Cockermouth, Kirkby Lonsdale, Penrith, Ulverston and Windermere and you’ll see what I mean.

Two recent stories have raised the issue again. In Penrith, still a bastion of small independents, traders say that the increasing number of supermarkets is having a ‘detrimental effect’ on them. Then today, The Cumberland News reports that in its Our Cumbria survey, ‘41% of respondents insist that independent shops are the lifeblood of our town centres and should be protected from the arrival of further major retailers.’ Considering that Carlisle, home city of that newspaper, is almost overrun with supermarkets and national chains, that is certainly encouraging. The attractions of local stores are often and loudly proclaimed but it does no harm to state them again. Well run independent shops bring variety and character to the high street - and often a different level of service - and are not always the expensive retail option that many people suppose they are. And unlike the profits of major chains which may well flow out of the county, the profits of the small, family shop will probably, and largely, stay in the community.

Pictured are More? The Artisan Bakery in Staveley, near Kendal and The Sporting Lodge at Sandside near Milnthorpe.

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