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The shop where the whole lot – from books to bikes – is 20p 


Otley in West Yorkshire is just not a spot where you’d normally look forward to finding a bargain.

Its upmarket centre, where ITV soap Emmerdale is filmed, boasts an array of independent bookshops, boutique craft stores and expensive-looking cafes. Yet hidden amongst them is ‘Britain’s Most cost-effective Shop’.

Run by father-and-son duo Steve and Stewart Nelson, The 20p Shop is paying homage to a automotive boot sale. And because the name suggests, the whole lot — from chocolate bars and books to gold jewellery and bikes — costs just 20p.

Bargain hunter: Money Mail reporter Helena Kelly outside The 20p Shop in Otley, West Yorkshire

The shop has been open for nearly five years but its popularity has sky-rocketed in recent months, attracting visitors from all around the country. 

Because the cost- of-living squeeze puts unprecedented pressure on household budgets, bargains have gotten harder to search out.

Popular low-cost retailers similar to B&M and Primark have warned of looming price hikes. And figures from the Office for National Statistics show even the most cost effective supermarket goods have risen by between 6 and seven per cent up to now 12 months.

But could the doom and gloom on the High Street spark a resurgence of fine old-fashioned automotive boot sales and bric-a-brac shops just like the one here in Otley?

It definitely seems so. The Charity Retail Association estimates sales across its stores are up 10 per cent from this time last 12 months, while the National Automobile Boot Sales organisation says a few of its sites are ‘breaking records’ for visitor numbers.

And as I step into the narrow, dimly lit 20p Shop at 3pm on a Thursday, it’s buzzing with customers.

Here they rifle through stacks of neatly displayed greetings cards, books, calendars and — a telling sign of those times — bottles of hand sanitiser and face masks.

I even spot several CDs with the Every day Mail hallmark — presumably freebies from issues passed by.

Reams and reams of DVDs, LPs, and CDs are there — I feel as if I’ve stepped back in time, especially as the whole lot should be paid for in money.

Did you understand? The 20p piece is 40 years old; it was introduced into general circulation in 1982 

Though this has been made tougher by bank and ATM closures which have left the town with only one Halifax branch.

As I walk past the doorway, packages of expensive-looking headphones sit on top of one another, complete with the unique price tag — £19.99.

Now I begin to feel suspicious. How can the Nelsons — within the face of soaring inflation — afford to sell all of those goods for just 20p? Stewart, 28, insists it’s right down to good haggling and bargain hunting.

The family has, for generations, owned market stalls and been regulars at automotive boot sales.

‘Once I was a child, all of my friends can be playing football on a Friday night and I’d be helping my dad stack his van,’ he says. ‘We’d spend all weekend on the automotive boots selling bits. Now we get our stuff from a mix of places.

‘A few of it’s second-hand, a few of it we buy in bulk and a few of it’s cast-offs from other shops. We struggle like every other small business but we aren’t here to make a giant profit.’ The entire staff here work on a voluntary basis.

Bric-a-brac: The 20p shop sells all sorts of goods including birthday cards, books and even an old Daily Mail DVD

Bric-a-brac: The 20p shop sells all types of goods including birthday cards, books and even an old Every day Mail DVD 

One volunteer, Sue Mckie, 53, says she was drawn to the sense of camaraderie at the shop. With its garish, vibrant red sign, one might suspect The 20p Shop is unpopular amongst locals of Otley — but Sue insists this isn’t the case.

As she mans the till, I hear her say: ‘We had 10,000 cards delivered last Friday. They’re selling like hotcakes.’

I ask Stewart how much these would cost and he says it could be anything from 19p a card — leaving them nothing greater than 1p profit per item — to £20 for a box of 1000’s. He also tells me he receives generous donations.

A couple of weeks ago, any individual gave the shop two children’s bikes — each of which were gone inside the hour.

‘It may possibly get a bit tense sometimes,’ says Sue. ‘The opposite morning we had two customers getting quite competitive about who took home a Simply Red LP.’

Indeed, there are real bargains to be found inside this Yorkshire treasure trove. Stewart says any individual once donated a gold ring to the shop.

It was snapped up by a customer who took it to a jeweller nearby and located it was value £120. She sold it immediately.

No crock: Everything  in the shop is priced at 20p - meaning there are always some real bargains to be had

No crock: The whole lot  within the shop is priced at 20p – meaning there are at all times some real bargains available 

Store volunteers have spotted customers on their phones Googling the worth of books to see in the event that they will be sold on for a profit.

Once I ask Stewart if it bothers him that individuals could also be exploiting his goodwill, he insists it doesn’t.

He says: ‘You may be a millionaire walking through here and it wouldn’t matter. The shop is for everybody. We’re not motivated by making a great deal of money.’

Staff say customers are a mix of those struggling to make ends meet and shoppers searching for the joys of a bargain. 

Retired couples, teenagers and young families with children stream through the door while I’m there — and no one leaves without buying something.

‘Are these just 20p?’ asks one woman, excitedly. ‘Definitely?’

One other male customer explains he’s visiting for the day from Nottingham. He cannot consider his luck.

Sue tells me they’ve even had visitors from Abu Dhabi and Canada. Still, it seems astonishing that a store like this will survive a two-year pandemic — during which it was forced to shut for months at a time — let alone the following cost-of-living crunch.

But there’s an old-school survival spirit at the center of The 20p Shop. And Stewart is a convincing salesman. ‘We won’t ever stop selling things for 20p,’ he says. ‘That’s the entire ethos of the shop and we were built around a social purpose to make things reasonably priced for the community.’


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