Closing time for ‘Britain’s rudest shop’

THEY say that the customer is always right. But this golden rule of retail is rarely followed at one store, where speaking out of turn can even see you thrown out.

Dubbed “Britain’s Rudest Shop”, the staff at Palfrey and Kemp Fords of Lymington have been happily dishing out insults to pushy punters over the past 15 years. In scenes that wouldn’t have been out of place in the classic Ronnie Barker and David Jason sitcom Open All Hours, some have even found themselves frogmarched to the exit after rubbing up owners Terry Palfrey and Geoff Kemp the wrong way.

But the tills at the historic High Street store will ring for the last time in June, bringing to an end more than 170 years of trading in the building. The site is to become a budget pub. Now loyal customers are being offered the chance to receive one final volley of verbal abuse before the business closes for good – a sign in the window even advertises as much.

Far from putting people off, the unorthodox approach to customer service has earned the duo cult status in the upmarket town. Some even come in just to experience the brunt of Terry Palfrey’s temper. His pet hates include shoppers who “rummage around” in the neatly packed bed linen section and those who leave finger marks on the polished cutlery.

Some shoppers have been branded “thick” in the past, while messy browsing prompts the angry reminder that “this isn’t Primark, you know”.

Rudeness to staff is almost certain to provoke an ear-bashing from 63-year-old Terry, who said: “I have chucked people out of the shop on several occasions. Sometimes the other customers even clap because they enjoy it. Unfortunately there are a lot of people these days who don’t have any manners. If it gets too bad, I’ll tell them to get out – I just will not stand for it.”

The closure next month brings the curtain down on one of the most iconic business operations in Lymington.

Pub chain Wetherspoon is now set to open one of its watering holes in the building – a move opposed by the vicar of the neighbouring St Thomas’s Church. The controversial scheme was approved last year, despite attracting more than 900 objections from those who fear the venue will become a magnet for rowdy drinkers and antisocial behaviour.

But loyal shoppers have already told of their sadness at losing the popular store, including Dennis Skillicorn, who jokingly described it as the “only place you can get a kicking and enjoy it”.

Terry, who will continue his passion for radio presenting after closing the shop, said: “It is sad in a way but there is no real future for this type of business anymore. We have been pretty lucky here and the people have been very good to us.”

Lymington and Pennington Town Councillor Ted Jearrad said: “If you go in there, you know you are going to get a joke or a bit of banter. I think the town will miss them and the type of shop that it is – there’s certainly nothing else like it.”


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