Diane Sellers meets the man who carries out home deliveries the old fashioned way

Having weekly groceries delivered to the door is now a popular option for busy families thanks to the online retail revolution. But time seems to have stood still in some parts of the Staffordshire Moorlands where families in more than a dozen villages have enjoyed the luxury of shopping from home at no extra charge since Churchill was prime minister and King George VI was on the throne.

Their doorstep service comes courtesy of Neville Brindley, one of the last of the dying breed of mobile grocers.

While customers of the big supermarkets pay a £5 delivery charge for the privilege of home delivery, Mr Brindley’s van visits customers at their homes twice a week, providing a vital service to the likes of Bill Rowlinson (pictured right in the mobile shop). And they pay no more than they would in Brindley’s village shop in Foxt.

The mobile shop has been on the road ever since World War Two ended in 1945.

It’s a service that many local pensioners couldn’t manage without, and Brindley, who celebrates his 67th birthday in May, says he won’t retire until he can find someone reliable enough to fill his shoes. But, with the grocery business now dominated by multiple retailers, he admits his turnover has gone down over the years and he has to keep his prices keen to compete.

Most of his produce is sourced from local cash and carry outlets Booker in Stoke-on-Trent and Bestway in Newcastle.

He says: “There are no deliveries here in Foxt so I make the trip into the Potteries five mornings a week, getting there before 7am and making the most of any special offers so I can pass the savings on to my customers.

“I like to give my customers a good choice so I buy in several different ranges. We sell a lot of bread, at all prices from 39p per loaf for the cheap stuff up to 99p for the quality wholemeal. I sell more best quality than anything and find people are willing to pay a bit more for it.”

Milk supplies come in four times a week and it sells at 99p for a two litre carton.

“It hasn’t gone up for years,” boasts Brindley. “I do my level best to avoid any price increases but sometimes you can’t help it. When the price of wheat went up my bread went up 7p a loaf and there wasn’t much I could do about it. We had complaints for a day or two but customers soon got used to the new price.”

Six days a week van driver Brian Johnson sets out on his rounds at seven o’clock in the morning and, if customers aren’t up when he calls, they leave their order at the door. But most, like Vi Harrison from Whiston, prefer to climb aboard and pick their own produce. Vi, a care worker, said: “I can’t use a computer. I would have a job to switch one on. And in any case, I wouldn’t shop online because I like to see what I’m buying.

“Brindley’s prices are very good and the shop saves me a trip into town. It has never let me down and, if they haven’t got what you need, they’ll make sure they get it for you next time.”

Just up the road an appreciative Flo Tomkinson gets her food delivered direct to her door every Tuesday and Friday. She says: “I couldn’t live without this shop. I never go shopping and buying stuff like this saves me carrying it. I’ve known bad winters when the van couldn’t get here and they fetched our orders and brought our stuff straight from the shop in Foxt.”

Rowlinson is another happy customer: “My wife’s an invalid and I do all our shopping via the mobile shop. I don’t know what I would do if it finished.”

Brindley’s customers will be relieved to hear that he has no plans to retire just yet. He’s just invested in a new vehicle for his rounds and says: “I would hate to see it finish. I know I’m never going to make a million but money doesn’t really come into it. I know I’m providing a service. I will keep going for as long as I can for the sake of the people who have supported me through all these years.”