Separated at birth

Twinning towns and health food stores for maximised footfall and customer engagement was the brainchild of two NAHS council members. Daventry and Devizes are the first pioneers.

When Justina Pettifer and Cheryl Thallon became council members of the National Association of Health Stores (NAHS), it sparked a friendship that would lead to their towns twinning across the miles. Both women are long-time evangelists for the natural health movement.

Justina is owner of The Healthy Life Co in Devizes, Wiltshire, while Cheryl and her husband Shaun are co-owners of Sheaf Street Health Store in Daventry, Northamptonshire – 100 miles apart but facing the same challenges and opportunities. Cheryl is also founder and MD of Viridian Nutrition, also based in Daventry.

An enthusiastic conversation at an NAHS meeting led to the idea of twinning the retail forums in their two towns.

The NAHS is supporting Justina and Cheryl with their twinning collaboration and encourages other local areas to get on board. Retailers wanting to climb aboard with this great idea should contact NAHS Administrator at office@nahs.co.uk.

#INDIEDEVIZES

During the very first lockdown, Justina reports that she felt incredibly lucky to have a store that could not only remain open but could go some way in helping the community stay strong with nutritious meals, supplements for anxiety and gentle words of encouragement and care.

“I felt so very sorry for my fellow retailers and friends who were not able to trade,” she says. “This spurred me to put out a ‘Shout Out’ on Facebook asking if there was anyone who might like to work with me to help our independent retailers.”

#IndieDevizes was born. Ida, a well known website designer, rolled out a fabulous website, indevizes.org.uk, while Jemma, a local involved in concerts and entertainment, joined and suddenly local retailers were promoting via social media and on the radio, highlighting those business who were running click-and-collect and keeping them in the public eye.

“We worked with our local Town Council, Councillors and our MP and continue to do so,” says Jemma. “As we unlocked (first time around), we designed banners at the entrances to the town, letting everyone know that retailers were open and safe.

“Our final piece de la resistance, was a fabulous open day with a trail map and prizes, cleverly designed to take people into each different part of town.

“Devizes has always had a very strong sense of community and as we develop as a group and work with other towns like Daventry we can only get stronger.”

More about twinning

Cheryl explains: “Both Justina and I are active committee members of the NAHS. After a few chats, it was clear that we both had a need and passion for helping to build our wider communities. It wasn’t enough for our stores to be successful, we wanted to work with others in our towns to see what was possible if many stores worked collectively.

“Justina had already been involved in setting up Indie Devizes, and so we arranged a Zoom meeting for the two forums to meet and share ideas.

“It proved incredibly inspirational. Both groups had the usual dilemmas of how loads of retailers are enthusiastic, but very few actually step up to do the work. But I view that as somewhat inevitable. I simply believe that as long as no one is negative, then let’s just press on!”

Discover Daventry

The Daventry Retail Forum (DRF) was set up by Cheryl Thallon in 2018 to connect and serve the interests of retailers in Daventry town centre.

There are now more than 90 members. There is no joining fee or cost to the stores, and all the activities have thus far been underwritten by Viridian Nutrition or other businesses in the town.

The DRF usually meets every other month, out-of-hours in shops, but during Covid-19, the meetings moved to Zoom and became weekly at the beginning, reducing to monthly more recently.

As with any such group, there are a handful of very active members, those who will support if asked, and those who appear rarely. However, one of the founding principles of the collective was that unless you spoke up, you would agree to always support any initiatives created by the DRF – so far this has been upheld.

Activities in Daventry so far include:

Useful tips from the Daventry experience

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