Sir; I read with interest the story on Somerfield's plans to supply village stores and the trial at our store in Ickford, Buckinghamshire (The Grocer, March 18). What was clearly missing, however, was a view from the village. Village stores and post offices are, sadly, a breed rapidly becoming extinct, not only under threat from our town superstores, wholesalers and cash & carries, but also the increase in online ordering and home delivery services. The village store is often the focal point in the community and a lifeline for the young and elderly. Sadly, communities often only realise the true value of the convenience store' after it is too late and has closed. We faced this situation in Ickford. We learnt last summer that the shop was closing and attempts to find a purchaser through normal channels failed. We decided that we would launch a community buyout. I doubt that there would be anyone in the village who, now that the shop has re-opened, would not applaud what has been achieved and can see the benefit flowing back into the life of the village. None of the committee involved in saving Ickford Village Stores were grocers and come from a variety of commercial backgrounds. Our partnership with Somerfield is not a ploy to court the City, as suggested by Alan Toft, nor does it preclude us from purchasing elsewhere. It provides many advantages to the community store: lWe have had access to Somerfield's expertise and its special offers; lWe can get daily deliveries, so maintaining stock levels, but without the need to carry expensive surplus stock requirements; lWe can offer a service of "if you want it, I can get it for you tomorrow"; lQuality and service is consistent and reliable; lWe can offer a much wider range of lines, appealing to many more customers, without having to buy cases; lWe can maintain our own identity as a village store offering local lines. We applaud Somerfield on its initiative. We have benefited and have no doubt other village communities can also benefit as we have. Martin Armistead Chairman Ickford Village Shop Association Ltd {{LETTERS }}