Maud and George Budd own the only shop-cum-post office in a medium-sized village in the English west country. They operate their licence, and they sell basic groceries, sweets, tobacco, soft drinks and inexpensive children’s toys, stationery and novelties. Their customers are of two main sorts. Most importantly there are the residents of this relatively thriving village, where at least one or two members of many of the households are locally employed in farming and agriculturally related occupations, in light industrial work in three nearby towns, and as building and other crafts people. Other residents, but by no means as many as in some other villages, are retired or weekend owners of holiday cottages. There is also a degree of passing casual custom which is mainly derived from visitors to the local stately home or celebrated village pub. When George and Maud bought the shop, its annual accounts revealed that it was just about breaking even, but that its turnover had declined substantially in the previous three years when their predecessors had deliberately cut down on their range of goods and had all but stopped selling groceries because of difficulties they encountered with efficient stockkeeping. The post office business had shown a steady increase over the past ten years but now looked to be levelling off.
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