‘Personal approach and loyalty helped in lockdown’

A town pet shop owner has extended her thanks to her loyal customers who continued to shop there during the coronavirus pandemic, and said that her business’s personal touch had been a huge benefit.

Melissa Bray, owner of Country Garden Pet Store. EMN-220113-093034001
Melissa Bray, owner of Country Garden Pet Store. EMN-220113-093034001

Country Garden Pet Foods in Horncastle, owned by Melissa Bray, offers not only anything you and your pets need, but also wild animals too, including wild birds, ducks, hedgehogs and fish.

Melissa has offered a weekly delivery service to the Horncastle and surrounding areas for years, and when the pandemic hit, was able to utilise this service.

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“2021 was a difficult year for us but we were able to trade a little bit and I was able to extend the delivery service and people really appreciated that,” she said.

Melissa found that during lockdown, many of local businesses in town were being used much more than many of the larger companies and people were desperate for human contact.

But as Country Garden Pet Foods has a large elderly customer base, she made plenty of adjustments to keep everyone safe.

“We introduced a one-way system and two people were only allowed in at a time, people were really good at wearing masks inside,” she said.

“We had a door service at first, where the customer came to the door to say what they wanted and then I’d go and get it for them.

“I have such loyal local customers and they’ve really supported me throughout the pandemic.”

Unfortunately this obviously led to a loss of trade as it eliminated the opportunity for people to browse, but Melissa said all they could do was have a flexible approach.

One positive that came out of the pandemic, Melissa said, is that a lot more people started buying wild bird food as they were spending more time watching the birds in their garden.

Melissa also said that while they may not be able to compete with internet giants, sometimes people just wanted to see a friendly face.

“I offer a personal service and the internet just doesn’t provide that,” she said, “While there’s no denying the internet has been so helpful during the pandemic, some people I’d deliver to wouldn’t have had human contact in ages and we’d spend half an hour outside chatting.”

Melissa is hoping to get back to some semblance of normality in 2022: “It would be great if people could just trundle round the shops again and find us.”