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Community shop dreamed up in pub shortlisted for national award

PUBLISHED: 07:54 24 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:13 24 October 2019

Jan Hodges, Tracy Kenny, Ems Spencer of Kett's Books Wymondham. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Jan Hodges, Tracy Kenny, Ems Spencer of Kett's Books Wymondham. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

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Six years ago, a group of strangers met at their local pub and came up with a plan to save their local bookshop.

Volunteers at Ketts Books in Wymondham. Photo: SubmittedVolunteers at Ketts Books in Wymondham. Photo: Submitted

Now, Wymondham community shop Kett's Books is in the running to be named Britain's Best Small Shop by the Independent Retailers Confederation.

The success of the small shop is down to a determined team of volunteers, who have given thousands of hours to the idea.

Funded by more than 200 "friends", who each pay £20 a year to demonstrate loyalty, the shop runs a plethora of book clubs, workshops and events to engage the entire community.

Despite competition from online giants like Amazon, Kett's Books has thrived, thanks in no small part to the legion of loyal customers, who visit the shop from all corners of the UK.

Jacob Tunks from Wymondham has been awarded the James Patterson’s Young Bookseller Special Achievement Award. Photo: Ketts BooksJacob Tunks from Wymondham has been awarded the James Patterson’s Young Bookseller Special Achievement Award. Photo: Ketts Books

While Kindle sales have plummeted in recent years, shops such as Ketts Books have experienced an increase in sales.

Tracy Kenny, who leads the team, said: "People want to see small businesses win because we're conducting business in 
a way they like. Bookselling is about sharing ideas and experiences with people, and sharing joy. Our team is here because they love books and people. Nobody is clockwatching and they always have a meaningful contribution to make."

The bookshop is one of three independent bookshops to make the shortlist, which, according to the IRC, recognises the best in independent retail, and aims to celebrate the creativity and central role independent retailers have in their local communities.

Mark Walmsley, chairman of the Independent Retailers Confederation, said: "Independent retailers are the lifeblood of UK high streets. They offer tradition, choice and innovation through the diversity of niche products and services. Independent retailers have been, and still are, an integral part of local communities all around the UK."

Ketts Books in Wymondham saw a huge increase in sales over the Christmas period. Picture: Tracy KennyKetts Books in Wymondham saw a huge increase in sales over the Christmas period. Picture: Tracy Kenny

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The winner, decided by public vote, will be announced at a reception at the House of Commons Terrace Pavilion on Tuesday, November 5.

Ms Kenny added: "We've stepped up to run the bookshop the way we think people should shop. If your book matters, it should be put in your hand by someone who's looked you in the eye and noticed you're there."

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