‘Grandkids to grandparents’ gift shop up for national award

Quirky Colchester gift emporium Bill & Bert’s has been nominated in a national competition to find the UK’s favourite local business A gift shop inspired b

Quirky Colchester gift emporium Bill & Bert’s has been nominated in a national competition to find the UK’s favourite local business

A gift shop inspired by the owners’ beloved pet pooch Bertie is up for a national award. Bill and Bert’s was opened by Bill Nettelfield and Sarah Charlton in August 2019, taking over the former Karen Millen store in Sir Isaac’s Walk.

The family business has been praised in the competition for its friendly service, relaxed vibe and mulled wine and prosecco evenings.

Owner Bill Nettelfield said: “Our aim when we set up Bill & Bert’s was to create a shop that was for everyone, from grandkids to grandparents, offering good quality at a good price. We took a risk when we opened, taking on the 2,500 square feet of the Karen Millen store but in April we doubled the size of the shop to 4,500 square feet, knocking into the former Trespass store too.

“The shop is a tribute to our pet Schnauzer Bertie, he features on everything from his picture hanging up to the paper carrier bags we give out to customers, and it’s a place where you can bring your dog and feel welcomed. What sets us apart is the enormous range of goods on offer and the service. Where some stores reduced staffing levels, especially during the pandemic, we put staffing levels up to make sure everyone could get served. Customer service is king.

“If you come into Bill & Bert’s the ethos is that everything is done with a smile, we do what we can to inject a bit of fun into the shopping experience. We have our late nights on a Wednesday in the run up to Christmas with free mulled wine, and in the summer we have a prosecco and beer day, where people get a free glass as they shop.

“All of the items we sell are decently made, sourced in the UK if possible. It’s so easy to shop online but you can find all sorts of great independent businesses in our towns and cities, especially when you start really exploring your area. And your reward is good customer service and a thank you for your effort. You don’t get that online. It’s actually quite unusual to get good customer service when you’re shopping nowadays but that is what people want.”

The Colchester Gift Card was introduced by Our Colchester Business Improvement District (BID) in summer 2021 as a way to encourage local shopping and keep spend locked into the area.

“The Colchester Gift Card is needed,” adds Bill, who set up the Calendar Club retail chain. If we don’t support our local shops, we’ll lose them. And it’s with local businesses that you will get better service and price. Customers sometimes say ‘you’re cheaper than online’ but I say, we go out of our way to source interesting, quality gift items at great value for money. The Colchester Gift Card is easy to accept and people can spend it with lots of businesses in Colchester.”

Sam Good, manager at Our Colchester BID, said: “Bill & Bert’s is a Colchester success story and undoubtedly one of the best gift shops in the UK because they deliver on the important things; good service, good products and personality. It is businesses like Bill & Bert’s that make Colchester what it is, differentiating our town from others around the UK. It would be wonderful to see a Colchester business taking the title of the UK’s favourite local business, so please keep voting.”

Colchester’s Gift Card is part of the Town & City Gift Card initiative active across the UK and Ireland.  Town & City Gift Cards is sponsoring the Help Us Find The UK’s Favourite Local Business competition.

Any local business can be nominated, with the business receiving the most votes being crowned as the UK’s favourite. The UK’s favourite business, and one person who nominated them, will receive £500 of gift cards.

Colin Munro, managing director of Miconex said: “The Help Us Find The UK’s Favourite Local Business campaign is designed to celebrate local businesses just like Bill & Bert’s, who make local shopping an attractive, enjoyable experience and contribute to the vibrancy and distinctiveness of our towns and cities. The winning business will be announced in December and we hope to see many more nominations coming in for local businesses in Colchester.”

Vote for Bill & Bert’s or any other Colchester business for free at Voting closes on the 21st December 2022.

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