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Corner shops are now delivering to 600,000 homes a week as hundreds of stores set up services to keep their communities going during the crisis.

Only about one in 10 local shops offered a home delivery service before the pandemic, but that figure has now surged to between 60 and 70 per cent, according to trade body the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).

That has meant some corner shops are now rivalling certain supermarkets for delivery capacity.

Meanwhile, Snappy Shopper, a computer app used by thousands of local stores to provide a delivery service, saw sales soar by 534 per cent since the lockdown was first announced, ‘The Grocer‘ reported last week.

James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS, said: “The way that local shops have responded to the coronavirus crisis [in order] to support people in their communities has been nothing short of incredible. Thousands more shops are now offering home delivery services, which are a lifeline for people.”

Written by Sam Meadows, Consumer Affairs Editor
Published in The Daily Telegraph – 6th May 2020


Yesterday morning, a wonderful thing happened on our Pimlico street. The steel shutter of the Food and Wine shop opposite our house was cranked up. It came down a few weeks ago when the proprietors couldn’t get supplies and we were devastated – not simply because the people running it are our friends, who have seen our children growing up, taken in parcels if we’re out and acted as a kind of retail larder (we pop over three or four times a day to buy things we’ve run out of , from coffee to curry powder); but because they’re a symbol of a vibrant street. Without them, it feels dead.

How to celebrate the reopening? I’d open a bottle of champagne, except they don’t drink; even a box of chocolates might not strike the right note during Ramadan. We’ll certainly write a card.

One of the discoveries of lockdown is how much we treasure local shops. They aren’t just about selling things – although for both shopkeepers and customers that’s important. They retail gossip (look at ‘The Archers’). They’re a catalyst for human interaction; going in for a bag of frozen peas, we’ll find a neighbour as we cross the road. We greet, we chat it’s what builds community.

In the countryside, village shops are even more important. They’re a lifeline for people – youngsters, mothers at home, old people – who don’t have cars. And if the school and the pub have closed, they’re the last place, after a sparsely attended church, where folk spontaneously meet and pass the time of day. Goodness, how we’ve come to appreciate such trivial nattering since we’ve been banged up in our homes, devoid of outside company.

And don’t corner shops illustrate another truth that we’ve come to realise, along with the importance of hospital staff, delivery drivers and other low-paid but vital workers? When the chips are down, we fall back on local networks.

In the early days of Covid, small food shops managed to stay better stocked than the big supermarkets. They were inventive. They delivered to customers in self-isolation. They kept back precious commodities like hand sanitiser for regulars. The stallholders in the market further down our street have started a box scheme for people who can’t get out; I have a neighbour who volunteered to do the deliveries out of a sense of public duty, although he was surprised when one trip took him to Chelsea with £90 of vegetables for the daughter of a well-known billionaire. These are not unusual cases. It was revealed yesterday that around the country, corner shops are delivering to 600,000 homes a week.

David Cameron had the idea of the Big Society, with the hope that charities could reinforce the public sector. That was widely ridiculed at the time – and now the premise looks flawed, given the billions being shaken from the money tree. But it wasn’t entirely wrong.

No man is an island. Resilient households and communities rely on other people. We’ve seen the benefit of short supply chains. It’s obvious we can’t rely exclusively on world markets for essentials. We need our own laboratories to make vaccines, our own farmers to grow food. This is bad news for the growers of flowers in sub-Saharan Africa or runner beans in Kenya, but local is best.

At a time when we’re being encouraged out of cars, corner shops are the way of the future.

Written by Clive Aslet, Editorial director of Triglyph Books
Published in The Daily Telegraph, Opinion section – 6th May 2020

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