This is a retailer that I had been meaning to visit for years and years, but they trade in a part of the country that I had not really had a pressing reason to visit, meaning that the Jempson’s-shaped gap in my geeky retail spotter’s list remained unticked.

This all changed with the thrilling news that Hendon had been drawn away against Hythe Town in the prestigious Isthmian League Cup. This opened up the very beguiling prospect of a day off work; a visit to the Jempson’s store in Peasmarsh (including lunch in the café); an afternoon exploring the Kent seaside; fish & chips in a Hythe chippie; a pulsating game of football in the freezing cold; and then a delightful drive home to get back at about midnight. Who could possibly resist?

I’ve seen little bits and pieces about Jempson’s in the trade press over the years and was intrigued by what I had read: trading exclusively in East Sussex; supplied by Nisa; excellent reputation for local sourcing, community engagement and charitable endeavours; trading through a mix of supermarkets, convenience stores, cafes and Post Offices; and still family-owned and operated after 80+ years. Definitely worth a look and, thanks to the fixture dartboard at Isthmian League HQ, this was finally going to happen.

I opted for the Peasmarsh superstore as Jempson’s originated in the town and the Peasmarsh store appeared on their website to act as some sort of mothership for the rest of the enterprise. It also had an instore restaurant, vital for my day off to achieve peak awesomeness.

The store itself – on the site of the original bakery on which Jempson’s is founded – was constructed in 2002 and trades from 35,000 sq. ft. Also featuring a petrol station, Post Office and pharmacy, the store is a lovely example of the benefits of focusing on fresh, local, craft and service.

Produce – with its basket and blackboard displays – creates a more than pleasant welcome to the store. The rear of the store, meanwhile, is home to some brilliant service counters. The cheese and ham counters are superb, the latter boasting that ham and bacon are made from scratch and that shoppers can come into store and see hams being dressed three days a week. Perhaps not everyone’s idea of super fun-times, but it works for me and is also a great differentiator against the cellophane-heavy approach of many competitors.

Given the company’s heritage as a bakery, it came as no surprise that the scratch bakery was brilliant. Merchandising here was top-drawer and the smell was indescribably good. Alongside was a charming display of Jempson’s-brand preserves and condiments, a few of which are now in the pantry at Roberts Acres bringing joy to assorted mealtimes.

The BWS department deserves a special shout-out too, with a superb range of local brews, vinos and spirits from Sussex, Kent, Surrey and beyond. The local vibe was present throughout the rest of the store, with great ‘Local Hero’ signage across many categories showing that Jempson’s is successfully fulfilling two functions of supporting local producers and bringing shoppers the best food and drink it can.

Chuck in some great fundraising activities, a beautifully simple loyalty scheme and some lovely customer service, and you have yourself a very impressive proposition. It remains to be seen how the fiercely proud Nisa member will transition to being supplied by the Co-op if/when that happens, but hopefully the transition will be seamless and Jempson’s will remain a beacon in terms of heritage, fresh, local and community. Well worth a visit.

Bryan Roberts, Global Insights Director

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