Nestled in the heart of the Thornbury high street Just 12 miles North of the Bristol City Centre, is Hawkins of Thornbury. A not so traditional hardware store with roots dating back to the early 1900s, Hawkins of Thornbury has become embedded in the culture of the South Gloucestershire market town. The independently owned shop has served the community for over 100 years, an impressive feat for any business!
But how? We live in a world where it is estimated that over 50% of new businesses don’t survive to see the second year of trading and where corporations are said to be conquering the independence of the high street. How has Hawkins of Thornbury not only endured but thrived through the ever-changing economic climate? What is their secret?
We spoke with Hawkins’ managing director, Christine Stone, to find out.
Originally purchased by Christine’s father in 1974, Christine took over the family business 8 years ago when her father became ill. The business has always played a major role in Christine’s life and her early years are filled with fond memories of growing up alongside the business. Some of her best memories include helping her dad cement the brand’s strong relationship with the locals through contributions to social events like the annual Thornbury Carnival and the ever-popular Victorian Christmas Markets. This exceptional commitment to the local community is part of what Christine feels has led to the success of the business today.
“The best thing about our business, is it is real, it is human,” says Christine.
Yes, you can probably find anything you could ever need in Hawkins of Thornbury, but this is only part of the equation. Hawkins of Thornbury is a business based on people, the people of the local community that the shop serves. The commitment to the locals is reflected as soon as you enter Hawkins. We visited on what seemed to be a relatively quiet weekday afternoon in Thornbury, but once through the shop doors, you are immediately greeted with a feeling of excitement. The shop is looming with enthusiasm as a dozen or more locals shop and socialise. They mingle amongst each other and also with the staff. A staff that has a combined tenure of over 70 years, with the shop’s most experienced veteran Irene, working on her 35th year of employment with the store. Looking around, everyone has a smile on their face, it is something genuine that is often lost in this digital age, real human connection.
The humanity of the business isn’t Hawkins only advantage over the corporate giants that that are threatening the existence of high streets across the nation. Hawkins has shown the ability to adapt as the economic landscape changes. The business knows that to survive, the customers’ needs have to be at the forefront of every business decision and adaptability is the key to ensuring this happens. “We are a locally owned independent business so whatever comes along we can adapt, and that is a real benefit,” said Christine.
And adapt they do! Hawkins is currently looking to the future and investing in the next generations of loyal customers through encouraging repair, reuse, and recycling schemes. Christine understands that the environment is at the forefront of everyone’s minds and she believes Hawkins can play their part in creating a commitment to the environment as they aim to source more sustainable products for not only their business but for their customers as well. The shop has already made major leaps in this direction by sourcing eco-friendly combustible carrier bags and reducing single-use plastic items where possible.
The independently owned retailer began advertising in our Local Pages directory at the start of it all, 40 years ago and the business continues to advertise today in our latest edition of The Little Blue Book, Thornbury. Of course, we cannot contribute all the outlet’s success to our publication, but we would like to think our long-standing partnership has been a contributing factor along the way. Here is to the next forty years of strong independent local businesses!
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