A STORE owner has shut down amid claims her takings were decimated when a charity shop opened in premises across the road.

Hilary Weldon took a parting shot at St Margaret's Hospice after closing Clotted Cream Furniture in The Square, Wiveliscombe, at the end of last month.

She partly blamed the charity for her shop's demise, but added there were also other factors that forced her out of business.

The charity, which has been in High Street for several years, relocated to bigger premises 18 months ago and now stocks a greater range of used and new items.

"They started selling virtually everything I was selling and were undercutting me on price," said Mrs Weldon.

"People went to them first because they felt they were helping a local charity.

"You can't blame people for thinking they're helping a good cause, but my takings dropped by a half over those 18 months.

"It's not a level playing field because St Margaret's doesn't pay business rates, VAT or staff, so everything is reduced. Because of their backing, they had greater buying power than us."

Alison McKinley, whose Carousel Pig business has been on the market for two years, now plans to sell the shop as a vacant property.

She claimed her sales had dipped dramatically since the charity shop moved.

Wiveliscombe and Ten Parishes Business Group chairman Heather Harvey, of Wivey Larder, set up a meeting with Robert Parsons, retail and commercial director with St Margaret's, to discuss its "aggressive" approach.

She said: "They've greatly increased the amount of new goods they're selling.

"It's affected footfall in some shops.

"The charity shop is benefitting from Wiveliscombe's uniqueness. People pop into town for the shops we have and then visit the charity shop.

"We don't want to end up like Taunton or Wellington with five or six charity shops.

"What St Margaret's is doing is having real repercussions and leaving a bad taste."

Mr Parsons said: "Our Wiveliscombe shop is very well-supported by the local community and raises vital funds to help St Margaret’s Hospice care for people across Somerset who are facing a life-limiting illness.

"Like many charity retailers, we stock some end-of-line new goods, which account for a very small percentage of the shop’s turnover.

"As soon as we became aware of the concerns of some local retailers, we arranged a meeting with them. Following this discussion we have made some changes in response to the concerns raised, including removing some product lines.

"In these challenging times for retailers, we all need to work together to ensure Wiveliscombe remains an attractive destination for shoppers.

"We know our charity shop attracts customers from a wide catchment area, helping to increase footfall in the town, and would like to thank those who shop with us and donate to us for their support and kindness."