Small-town shopkeepers gain sweet revenge on superstore rival

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The Independent Online
One hundred shopkeepers in a historic market town will today step up their fight against an out-of-town superstore which has severely dented their takings.

Traders in Leominster, Hereford and Worcester, are jubilant about the success of a loyalty card scheme designed to lure customers back from a Safeway store which opened four years ago.

Nearly 8,000 shoppers hold "Loyal To Leominster" cards which can be used to obtain gifts and discounts from shops involved in the campaign launched four months ago.

But now the traders are trying to woo thousands of tourists, who from today can claim a free visitors' card entitling them to the same privileges as the locals.

"Tourism is an increasingly important part of our trade and we want visitors to come to us instead of an out-of-town supermarket," said the scheme organiser, Graham Hurley, 45, who owns a specialist pork butcher's shop.

"Before the loyalty scheme began everyone was talking the town down the drain and saying Leominster was dead. But the scheme has exceeded all expectations by a very wide margin: my turnover is up 40 per cent on last year ... it is opening people's eyes to what is available in the shops. They've been saying it's cheaper than the supermarket."

Each time customers use their loyalty card at Mr Hurley's shop they are given a raffle ticket, and the winner, drawn each month receives free meat for a year.

Leominster's traders decided to launch the scheme after a local Chamber of Commerce survey found 35 shops in the town centre were empty and six more had been converted into houses. Two professors from Staffordshire University arestudying the experiment to see if it could benefit other towns. An initial survey shows that 42 per cent of traders believe it has brought in more shoppers and 26 per cent claim that their customers are spending more money.

Already shopkeepers in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, Ross-on-Wye, Hereford and Worcester, and Belper in Derbyshire are planning similar schemes.

A spokesman for Safeway spokesman, Peter Sitch, said: "Before we built our store, shoppers were leaving in droves to go to other large food stores, primarily in Hereford. It is to be welcomed that retailers in Leominster are taking positive steps rather than, as in many places, complaining about the competition. Anything that makes the town a more attractive destination for shoppers is to be welcomed."

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