A MUCH-LOVED village store and post office in St Breward has announced it will close at the end of June this year.

The owners of the store, which incorporated a mobile post office that served nine isolated villages across North Cornwall and was at the hub of the community during the coronavirus pandemic, have said that the effects of inflation, supplier cost increases, access to products and the impact of a reduced footfall amid the cost-of-living crisis were something it could no longer cope with.

St Breward Stores and Post Office was saved by its current owners, who also own the village’s ‘Old Inn and Restaurant’ venue in 2017 when it was threatened by closure, with the current owners relocating it to Churchtown in the village.

In a lengthy statement explaining the reasons why they had closed, the management of St Breward Stores and Post Office said: “It is with great sadness that we have been forced to evaluate the viability of running St Breward Stores and as a result will be closing the shop at the end of June 2023.

“Since agreeing to take on the shop for the sake of the village and relocating it to Churchtown back in 2017, owning and running the shop has been an absolute privilege. However, since then we have had some significant highs and lows. We supported the community through COVID ensuring everyone had access to essential groceries at this challenging time, we installed a National Lottery terminal, launched a Mobile Post Office service that services nine destinations around North Cornwall, launched an Amazon collection hub, and have tried our hardest to always ensure the shop sells what our customers need.

“The shop has been at the heart of the community of this village for a long time. It has been open 12 hours a day, unlike many other village shops, and enabled everyone to utilise the full Post Office services during these hours too. It has also employed and provided jobs for many local people.

“That aside, without a shadow of a doubt, the past few years have dealt the shop a series of devastating blows. The Coronavirus pandemic played a significant part. During that awful period, we did everything we could to continue to support the village, remaining open and providing deliveries throughout the village when major supermarkets wouldn’t. But since the pandemic, we have seen significant losses.

“The footfall into our shop has reduced dramatically, inflation has hit the business hard and supplier cost increases have risen astronomically, not to mention the sharp increase in utility bills. Alongside these issues alone, over the last year, our suppliers have continued to reduce their availability of stock in favour of other industries, dealing another crushing blow to the small retail sector.”

The owners of the store were also critical of the impact that supermarkets and the reduction in availability of cash and carry suppliers have had on small stores such as theirs. They added that they had tried to align themselves with a ‘chain brand’ retailer such as Spar, Londis, and Bestway in order to secure deliveries, prices, and support but had been denied due to insufficient sales.

The statement continued: “At the same time, larger supermarkets have enormous power now, in some instances, purchasing our suppliers which have created (in our view) an unfair marketplace. Sadly, because they have the buying power to keep their prices low, we cannot compete with them for our customers. They can offer prices to our customers sometimes lower than we can purchase these products at wholesale, and they will deliver.

“Some other local cash and carry businesses in Cornwall have also closed, making independent small retailers like us more and more dependent on just one or two suppliers, who have then increased costs to us so rapidly and inordinately that retail businesses like ourselves just cannot survive. The cost rises from other small local suppliers are also (understandably) rising with increasing regularity and although we have attempted to absorb these as much as we can, it’s become an impossible situation.

“We have even attempted to align ourselves with retailers such as Spar, Londis, Bestway, and other retail organisations to secure their deliveries, prices, and support but sadly St. Breward Stores does not have sufficient sales or footfall for them to consider bringing us on board.

“It has been the final nail in the coffin.

“The large supermarkets are winning. They are crushing small businesses in order that they can remove competition.

“The closure of our shop is therefore devastating to us, as it is also to our staff, and our Post Office customers in St. Merryn, St. Issey, Rock, St. Kew Highway, Tintagel, Delabole, Port Isaac, Trevone and Crackington Haven.

“We are not the only ones facing these issues, and many retail outlets in neighbouring villages are now community ventures. They benefit from trading with no or minimal wage overheads and without some business expenses that we must contend with. But we regret that as a business, St. Breward Stores cannot continue to trade.

“With this in mind, please be aware that until our doors close, our opening times will be reduced from Monday 24th April 2023.

“We would like to thank all our lovely villagers that have supported us since we opened our doors. We are painfully aware that for many of our locals, losing the shop will be devastating. Especially those who do not have transport. But sadly, with the shop making a loss for its second year, we have no choice.

“We would like to pass on our heartfelt regret and sadness over this devastating news for St. Breward. Thank you for supporting the shop at Churchtown for the last seven years. All we would ask is that you continue to support our lovely shop until it closes its doors.

“Thank you, Darren, Dale and all the staff.”