Swanage shop scoops top UK retailer award

A convenience store that has been in the same Swanage family for more than 100 years has received recognition for its outstanding contribution to the community.

Costcutter Swanage in the High Street has been named Community Retailer of the Year 2024 at the national Convenience Awards held in Manchester. 

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The Tomes family (left to right) Michelle, Marie, Keith, Chris and Darren

Started as a small sweet shop in 1908

At the ceremony on Thursday 21st March 2024, the store discovered it had beaten competition from other shops based in the West Midlands, Shropshire, Lancashire and Powys.  

Costcutters Swanage has been in the Tomes family since 1908, although then it was a small sweet shop, with no surrounding built up development, just farmland and a few cottages.

It was passed down the generations to Harry Tomes, who in turn passed it on to his son Keith and daughter Marie in 2002.

Today it is run by directors Keith Tomes and Marie Smith, along with Keith’s son Chris who is hands-on with the day-to-day running of the store.

Keith’s other son Darren looks after the food to go and the butchers, while Marie’s daughter Michelle is also instrumental in running the business.

Post Office at Costcutter Swanage

Costcutter Swanage employs 12 local people in addition to the family members, including Sarah Taylor on the Post Office counter which was established in the 1960s

Butchers at Costcutter

The shop is well known for its butcher counter which was introduced in the 70s (left to right) Ian Dunesby, Adrian Bishop and Ben Brisby

“The ‘right way’ of doing business”

In the submission for the Community Retailer of the Year award, the team said:

“We passionately believe that you should be 100 percent immersed in your community – not for one year, five years, or even ten years – but for generations!

“Over the year, and indeed over the past ten years, we have raised many thousands of pounds for the community, but for us, it’s all about supporting our customers with causes that matter to them.  

“And by doing so, it undoubtedly benefits our business and our community but that’s not why we do it – we do it because it’s the ‘right way’ of doing business.” 

Costcutter old frontage as AG Tomes store
Swanage Museum

The Tomes family business over the years, starting in the early 1900s

Costcutter as HEM Tomes store
Swanage Museum

Just a small traditional shop at the beginning of the 20th Century

Costcutters old frontage as VG store
Costcutter

Reincarnated in the 1970s as the VG store in a new building on the same site

Costcutter old frontage as Select and Save store
Costcutter

Then renamed Select and Save

Costcutter old frontage
Costcutter

A 21st Century refresh

Costcutter Swanage

Proving that it’s never plain sailing running a small business, the current sign recently blew down in a storm, but it revealed another interesting sign which is probably part of the original facade of the modern building

Family of volunteers

Alongside collecting money at their tills for charity, offering raffle prizes for local good causes, and collecting for the food bank, the family has an impressive history of volunteering. 

Keith has been a coach for more than 30 years for the Swanage and Wareham rugby club and oversees the youth development programme.

Darren is a RNLI Swanage Lifeboat volunteer crew member and the senior helmsman. In July 2023, along with three friends, Darren completed a 24 hour open water relay sea swim raising an incredible £10,000 for the RNLI and the mental health charity, Mind. 

Chris is a local councillor and deeply involved with the running of the Swanage Carnival, which raises around £30,000 each year for good causes. He’s been on the carnival committee for 20 years and chaired it for four years.

Costcutter Swanage

Always doing their best to be competitive on prices

Costcutter Swanage award

Community Retailer of the Year award 2024

“Lots of loyal customers”

Holding the award for Community Retailer of the Year, Keith Tomes said:

“It’s great to have such national recognition as a community store, as we do like to support local charities and organisations. 

“Over the generations, the store has changed and it’s changing all the time. We like to stay up to date with the latest trends and are proud of our butcher’s and the Post Office which we know our customers appreciate, especially with all the parcel returns for online shopping!

“We have lots of loyal customers and we really couldn’t do it without them! They are our bread and butter and we do our best to be as competitive as possible, although it’s not always easy.”

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