A SMALL family run convenience store in Christchurch has been announced as the winner of the Daily Echo’s Retailer of the Year award.

The proprietors of the Premier Store on The Grove have been praised by residents as being the “champion’s league of shops” after supporting elderly residents and young families in the area during the Covid-19 pandemic

Having moved down from London, the Gunduz family, consisting of parents Tacim and Hanim and brothers Huseyin, Volkan and Burak, took over the ownership of the store 11 years ago.

However, when the pandemic struck, the family decided to put the business to one side and focus on supporting their local community in whatever way they could.

Bournemouth Echo: From left to right: Huseyin Gunduz, Tacim Gunduz, Volkan Gunduz and Burak Gunduz, owners of the Premier store on The Grove in Christchurch with their Retailer of the Year award

Eldest brother Huseyin said: “During the lockdown we were pushed to the limits in terms of trying to get stock.

“One of my fundamentals during that time was that the prices of the items were selling would not change, lockdown or no lockdown.

“At the height of the pandemic, business was not the number one priority. It was about providing value for money because, due to people being on furlough, everyone was feeling the squeeze."

The store remained open during the lockdowns and helped to source specific items for customers, as well as a delivery service, free of charge, to some of its customers who were forced to isolate.

Bournemouth Echo: The Premier store on The Grove in Christchurch has been named Bournemouth Daily Echo’s Retailer of the Year 2021

Having previously catered for a small community, the Gunduz family saw their store grow in popularity as people travelled from further afield to pick up their daily essentials.

However, aside from the business, the family knew the importance of engaging with the community and providing a personal service as many people struggled through the uncertain times.

The store received a lot of support in the competition, obtaining 40 per cent of votes.

Huseyin added: “I made it a point that, during the lockdowns that we had to be especially warm and welcoming to our customers because for some of them, we might have been the first person, and in some cases the only person, that that customer might see all day.

“Just a little chat for five minutes could make someone’s day. For some people living on their own, we may have been the only chat that person will have all day.

“If anyone needed anything, we were there for them, and people started to realise that and could depend on us.”

Since the lockdowns, the store has maintained a high footfall, with many customers now knowing the family by name. With the store now on Uber Eats, the family are looking to expand their businesses ever further.

Bournemouth Echo: The Premier store on The Grove in Christchurch has been named Bournemouth Daily Echo’s Retailer of the Year 2021

“The lockdown did help us as it allowed us to properly get to know our locals and put us on the map, said Huseyin.

“You can ‘t buy trust, you have to earn it and I think we have done that in providing a good service here for 11 years and going that extra mile during the lockdowns.

“I want to say a big thank you to everyone that initially nominated us and then everyone who voted for us.

“It has been really nice to accept this award, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.”