'Shop locally this Christmas' urges Bridgnorth shop owner
The owner of a shop selling items for dog owners has urged the public to shop locally this Christmas and support the high street during the cost of living crisis.
Charlie Butler set up Pamper That Pooch in Bridgnorth in 2019 and has battled through the pandemic to keep the tails of local dogs wagging.
As energy bills and petrol prices soar, people might be tempted to shop online for the products they need, but 61-year-old Charlie is asking people to look closer to home.
Charlie says that he is "battling" larger pet retailers, but is confident in the service that he offers for pooches and their owners.
"It's about experience," he said, "I'm an old-fashioned retailer, I offer a more personalised service. I offer one-on-one fittings, so people can try the harnesses and coats on their dogs.
"Online retailers and bigger shops don't do that. A lot of my repeat trade is through customer service and word of mouth. It's a false economy online, if the products aren't right you have to repost them backwards and forwards."
As the cost of living bites, Charlie is keeping an eye on prices and has seen the cost of dog food soaring.
"It's just going up weekly. I used to know the prices of all the products I bought off by heart but now I have to check. There's a particular bone I buy that cost £1.25 last year, and now it costs £2.25."
And while he is on a fixed tariff for his energy bills, Charlie will often turn the lights off when customers aren't in the shop to save money.
"I have to watch every penny. Every penny counts," he admitted.
"I have a fixed tariff so my bills aren't too bad, but it's on my mind."
While Pamper That Pooch is still delighting customers, other businesses in Bridgnorth have not been so lucky.
"There's a lot of empty shops in the town," Charlie said.
"I made a point of counting and I saw 15 empty premises in the High Town.
"Some have been empty for years. There's the cost of living and then some people are very greedy with rent. It's extremely difficult at the moment."
Charlie is the only member of staff at Pamper That Pooch, calling himself a "one man band". He makes a five-hour round trip to West Bromwich every week to get the best supplies possible, and manages the shop and its social media on his own.
And while plenty of dogs are happy customers, there's one dog that can't step foot (or paw) on the premises - that's Crystal - Charlie's six-year-old Jack Russell.
"She barked whenever other dogs came into the shop. She's been barred," he laughed.