Until two years ago, Johnson of Sandhurst Village Stores had recorded 19 years of continuous growth, but recently it has taken a battering from nearby competitors, says its owner David Johnson.

Based in Sandhurst, Kent, the c-store took a hit three years ago when a Tesco supermarket opened in Tenterden and a co-op in Cranbrook doubled in size. On top of that, a Budgens opened in nearby Hawkhurst.

David's wife Ann reacted by phoning 14 local independents and persuading most of them to band together on promotions and advertising in the local press. That helped them all through the first difficult few months, says David, but the earlier upward trend in growth was stifled. "We had a turnover of £800,000 the year before last. We have held turnover at that, but two years ago we were hoping to reach £1m."

The Johnsons, who sit on the steering committee of the Rural Shops Alliance, have been proud owners of their shop for the past 21 years and they've enjoyed the ride. But they are in their sixties now and are looking to pass on the baton and bow out gracefully.

Their shop is a listed building, but the couple have still secured planning permission to knock it down and rebuild it with flats above it. "At the moment we're just trying to keep it smart and tidy," says David. "Ideally we need to refit the inside, which would take eight months. We are trying to find a buyer who wants to keep the shop."

The store has been refitted roughly every four years and incorporated a post office in its last revamp. It has expanded from an original 500 sq ft to 2,000 sq ft and its services include deli, bake-off, non-food and dry cleaning.

David and Ann are determined that their business should survive as a going concern. "We've been here a long time. There's no way we'll just let things die."