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Back in Time for the Corner Shop

Series 1


Duration: 59 minutes

First broadcast: on BBC Two EnglandLatest broadcast: on BBC Two Northern Ireland HD

Available for 3 months

This time, the family are running a shop through the decade of Spangles and arctic roll – the 1970s. By now, the supermarkets have become Britain’s shopping destination of choice, and corner shops are beginning to feel the pinch. Most small shops follow the supermarkets’ lead and become almost completely self-service, stocking their shelves with big brands and convenient food at competitive prices. With customers increasingly choosing a supermarket chain over their corner shop, local shopkeepers pin their hopes on their friendly community approach and strong customer relations to help keep the faceless supermarkets at bay.

The family’s experience begins in 1970 with a grand opening designed to compete against the onslaught of the supermarkets. While Sam dons his chicken costume to drum up trade for the shop’s cheap, cheap prices, none other than the lord mayor of Sheffield cuts the ribbon to open the doors. But as a newly self-service operation, Dave has to completely transform his shopkeeping approach to keep the tills ringing.

In 1971, shopkeepers face their biggest challenge since rationing as they are expected to guide the population through the process of decimalisation. With many customers resistant and suspicious that the new money is a ruse to cheat them, shopkeepers are on the front line of a seismic change. But before they deal with any customers, the Arderns have to relabel every single item in the shop using everyone’s favourite new gadget, the price gun.

It is not just supermarkets and shiny 50ps the Arderns have to deal with. In the early 70s, regular power cuts are a way of life, and while it means the family’s new telly and cooker are both out of action, the shop’s stock of matches, candles and torches proves highly profitable. More worrying is the prospect of losing the contents of the shop’s brand new freezer. But with customers also unable to cook for themselves, Dave’s new line of camping stoves comes in handy to prepare a cut-price community barbecue, and loyal customers are invited to the neighbourhood’s only hot dinner. Arderns' corner shop 1, supermarkets 0.

In 1972, comedian Sanjeev Kohli visits the Arderns to reveal how families like his would change the face of the corner shop forever. Originally from India, Sanjeev's parents were just two of hundreds of thousands of immigrants invited to Britain by the government to help with labour shortages. Fed up of being stuck in dead-end shifts and passed over for promotion, his dad decided to do a job that meant he could be his own boss and, like thousands of others like him, decided to open up his own corner shop. Many Asian shopkeepers, including Sanjeev’s family, faced regular abuse and racism, but despite this they took pride in providing digestive biscuits, packets of Rolos and emergency bottles of wine to communities all over Britain.

With many households now owning a car, a trip to the supermarket for a big weekly shop has become the norm. Corner shops have to stay on their toes to keep up, making sure they stock anything their customers might need last minute or on a whim. The shelves fill up with even more stock, offering not just convenience but also catering for Britain’s increasingly adventurous tastes. Pot Noodles and Toast Toppers are joined by the then rather exotic dried pasta, and for the even more daring, curry powder!

A bigger variety of stock isn’t the only way to keep up with the supermarkets. The Arderns need to promote their shop, and what better way to do it than cashing in on Sheffield’s new craze - snooker. In 1977, the world snooker championships came to Sheffield for the first time, and to help the Arderns make the most of it, snooker legend John Virgo visits to rustle up some trade with a show of tricks and a bag of snooker-related novelties.

In 1979, Sheffield Wednesday win the Steel City Derby and with the shop remaining as a still-important community hub, the Arderns put on a bit of a do to celebrate the win and the end of the decade. Show less


Sara Cox
Polly Russell
Series Producer:
Victoria Bell
Executive Producer:
Emily Shields
Joe Pedder
Line Producer:
Abigail Watts
Production Manager:
Laura Tjia
Production Company:
Wall to Wall West
Eve White

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