Twice the size of its existing store at Hooke Hill, which the new purpose built store is replacing, the new store in Afton Road is The Southern Co-operative’s flagship store for its Local Flavours range, stocking food and drink from over 35 Isle of Wight growers and producers.
Kate Hibbert, The Southern Co-operative’s Local Sourcing Manager, explained:
“The Isle of Wight is renowned for its quality and diversity of local produce and is where our popular Local Flavours range originated nine years ago; this range has now extended to Hampshire, Sussex and across southern England as demand has increased, promoting local distinctiveness and offering valuable support to local food producers and suppliers.”
A dedicated ‘Fresh from the Island’ counter will offer locally sourced meat, fish, cheese, savoury pies and more. Island suppliers include The Tomato Stall, Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight Cheese Company, Catch, Island Bread Company and Goddard’s Brewery. Free Local Flavours tastings will be held regularly in store to enable customers to try new products from the extensive range and encourage them to support local too.
The store opening has created an additional 30 jobs for local people, with the team from the existing Freshwater store also transferring to the new site in Afton Road. As a co-operative, the store has a purpose beyond profit and its success is not measured purely by its commercial success, as Tony McGuinness, the store’s General Manager, explains:
“It’s really important to all of us here that the store is at the hub of the local community and with our new store opening, we want to continue the strong relationship that we have with our customers and local organisations.”
The local community relationship has included donations over the past five years, totalling over £100,000, to local groups including FYTbus community bus service, Freshwater Memorial Hall, Isle of Wight Foodbank, West Wight Sports Centre and All Saints CE Primary School. A dedicated Isle of Wight Food Bank donation point will be located within the new store. As well as a dedicated bus stop outside the store for the community FYTbus, customers can use a free customer taxi phone located in the community hub, where local news and activities, together with information for members of The Southern Co-operative will also be available.
A defibrillator has been fitted on the store’s exterior wall for emergency medical use by the community.
General Post Office services – bill payments, sending letters and parcels – are available seven days a week during store opening hours which are 07:00-22:00 Monday to Saturday and 10:00-16:00 on a Sunday, in addition to a larger main Post Office area within the new store open Monday- Saturday from 09:00-17:30.
Consideration for the local environment has also been a priority. All store waste will be backhauled on delivery vehicles to be sent for recycling, anaerobic digestion or to an energy-from-waste facility. The car park surface is permeable to absorb rainfall and minimise puddles, and landscaping is designed to attract wildlife and enhance their habitat through planting and the inclusion of bat boxes and nesting sparrow terraces. Inside, water efficient measures such as low flow WCs, taps and showers will offer up to 40% water saving, low energy LED lighting and occupancy sensors will minimise lighting use and the building management system makes for more efficient refrigeration, heating and lighting, reducing energy consumption. All electricity used by the store comes from renewable sources through a green energy contract and customers with electric vehicles can recharge these as well as take advantage of dedicated parking spaces.
The Southern Co-operative’s new store in Afton Road, which opened at 10:00 this morning (Thursday) is the latest opening for the independent regional retailer which, including 10 community food stores on the Isle of Wight, has nearly 200 stores across southern England and its roots in Hampshire.
As part of the new store’s celebrations, there is the chance to win a hamper filled with food and drink from The Southern Co-operative’s Local Flavours, simply by entering online at thesouthernco-operative.co.uk/food/freshwater-opening by midnight on Friday 2nd October.