Historic Ilminster shop R.A Dyer set to close

Yeovil Express: Historic Ilminster shop R.A Dyer set to close Historic Ilminster shop R.A Dyer set to close

PEOPLE in Ilminster have spoken of their shock as one of Somerset’s most iconic shops prepares to close.

R.A. Dyer in Silver Street, a traditional drapers shop, has been in business since 1870 but its owner announced its closure this week.

Seven jobs will be lost, including that of manager Shirley Lee.

The store sells women’s and men’s clothing and shoes, haberdasheries and homewares, and is run by one of Somerset’s oldest families – the Speke family.

Owner Jacqui Speke told the News the closure filled her with ‘great sadness’ and was brought about by a change in people’s shopping habits and competition from online retailers.

She added: “This has been a very difficult decision but the changing marketplace has made it impossible for us to continue to trade as a clothing retailer. I want to thank the many loyal customers who have supported this business and my dedicated staff.”

The shop opened in Ilminster more than 140 years ago, as R.P.

Wheadon’s drapers and then as R.A. Dyer when the late Richard Dyer took it over in March 1937.

The shop has barely changed, with carved wood decorations, recognisable green frontage and its’ name etched on the glass doors and mosaic floor.

A closing down sale has started and Jacqui, who has run the store for eight years, said the last day of trading is expected to be around the beginning of August.

On a positive note, she said the shop will not be vacant for long – interiors business Lafleure of Langport, which Susan Khan set up about 11 years ago, plans to create a showroom in the Grade II-listed building in September.

Jacqui said: “Although I would prefer not to be shutting, I am delighted that a new business will be opening in the store as it is important to continue our proud history of independent retail businesses in Ilminster and to preserve this iconic listed building.”

Ilminster Mayor Emma Jane Taylor said the building is a longstanding iconic shop in the town which has been much-loved.

She added: “It is disappointing to hear that it is closing and we wish the staff and the owners all the success going forward. We look forward to hearing what will be coming in place to occupy the premises again soon.”

The store last closed in February 2005 before being taken over by the descendants of John Hanning Speke, the man accredited with discovering the source of the Nile, after the departure of previous owner Dee-Anne McCoull.

The store was very much Jacqui Speke’s venture, and although it was initially leased, said she bought the freehold from owner Rosa Davis.

County councillor Linda Vijeh said she was sad to hear the news and added: “I recall my introduction to the joys of this quirky store, with its distinctive facade, over 25 years ago.

“It has always reminded me of the days when service really meant something and it is an excellent example of our traditional retailing history.

“It still has many excellent features, which I hope will be preserved by whoever takes over.”

What are your memories of the shop? Share them below.

Comments (15)

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4:47pm Tue 8 Jul 14

QuillPen says...

There aren't many places selling good craft supplies in the area. Dyers would be ideal for a number of small shops within the shop with a variety of materials on sale from card making to cake decorating, needlecrafts, painting, model making etc.,
If other craft shops opened or current ones extended their range of supplies, Ilminster could attract many people.
There aren't many places selling good craft supplies in the area. Dyers would be ideal for a number of small shops within the shop with a variety of materials on sale from card making to cake decorating, needlecrafts, painting, model making etc., If other craft shops opened or current ones extended their range of supplies, Ilminster could attract many people. QuillPen
  • Score: -17

9:00am Wed 9 Jul 14

QuillPen says...

Could the person who gave me a thumbs down explain their objection to my suggestion?

A town with shops selling a wide range of craft supplied would draw in people who would then go to other shops.
Could the person who gave me a thumbs down explain their objection to my suggestion? A town with shops selling a wide range of craft supplied would draw in people who would then go to other shops. QuillPen
  • Score: -16

4:41pm Wed 9 Jul 14

QuillPen says...

No reasons?

Come on, you must have reasons. Or other suggestions.


Or is it that you have nothing better to do then be negative just for the sake of it?
No reasons? Come on, you must have reasons. Or other suggestions. Or is it that you have nothing better to do then be negative just for the sake of it? QuillPen
  • Score: -15

10:03pm Wed 9 Jul 14

QuillPen says...

Current negative score answers my question.

Clearly no-one has any view, or point to make.
Current negative score answers my question. Clearly no-one has any view, or point to make. QuillPen
  • Score: -11

10:13pm Wed 9 Jul 14

orchardman says...

I have a notion that this a listed building therefore the combination of planning consent, which, should it be given, would then involve considerable expense to make the conversion, which would thus make it a rather uneconomic commercial proposition. I agree it is important to protect the historic centre of town, but as a conservation area there are limitations as to what changes that can be made. I rather think the type of retail ideas put forward by QuillPen, apart from having a limited market, are not going to bring people flocking to the town, particularly as the town already has a number of shops selling most of the items he mentions.
I have a notion that this a listed building therefore the combination of planning consent, which, should it be given, would then involve considerable expense to make the conversion, which would thus make it a rather uneconomic commercial proposition. I agree it is important to protect the historic centre of town, but as a conservation area there are limitations as to what changes that can be made. I rather think the type of retail ideas put forward by QuillPen, apart from having a limited market, are not going to bring people flocking to the town, particularly as the town already has a number of shops selling most of the items he mentions. orchardman
  • Score: 8

10:47pm Wed 9 Jul 14

Cornishlady62 says...

MORE interiors? I think not. We have enough of that sort of shop already. Lets have a shop that provides what the ordinary man can afford in these austere times.
MORE interiors? I think not. We have enough of that sort of shop already. Lets have a shop that provides what the ordinary man can afford in these austere times. Cornishlady62
  • Score: 12

9:18am Thu 10 Jul 14

QuillPen says...

Where in Ilminster can people buy a range of sewing needles, sewing threads, embroidery threads, fabrics, sheets of coloured paper or card, paints for model making, buttons? Who sells haberdashery now?

Crafts of all kinds are becoming more and more popular and people would come to a town which offered these supplies. I have to buy a lot of mine online as there is nowhere locally.

Interior design will have a very limited range of customers.
Where in Ilminster can people buy a range of sewing needles, sewing threads, embroidery threads, fabrics, sheets of coloured paper or card, paints for model making, buttons? Who sells haberdashery now? Crafts of all kinds are becoming more and more popular and people would come to a town which offered these supplies. I have to buy a lot of mine online as there is nowhere locally. Interior design will have a very limited range of customers. QuillPen
  • Score: -11

9:48am Thu 10 Jul 14

QuillPen says...

There wouldn't need to be structural changes. Each 'shop' owner could have their own 'department' so customers could easily wander from one to another, as they did when it was a department store.
There wouldn't need to be structural changes. Each 'shop' owner could have their own 'department' so customers could easily wander from one to another, as they did when it was a department store. QuillPen
  • Score: -8

12:52pm Thu 10 Jul 14

QuillPen says...

Can anyone tell me where in Ilminster I can now buy from a good range of buttons, threads, assorted types of sewing needles as Dyers won't be selling such items any more?
Can anyone tell me where in Ilminster I can now buy from a good range of buttons, threads, assorted types of sewing needles as Dyers won't be selling such items any more? QuillPen
  • Score: -10

4:22pm Thu 10 Jul 14

Nyreen says...

A craft shop in my opinion has fairly limited appeal in the present day due to it targeting a specific demographic and I think that is why there is a bit of resistance from the comments regarding it. If I recall correctly, there have been quite a few craft shops open in Chard that have all failed due to the lack of business (among other things of course). The 'Where in Ilminster' argument can apply to anything. Where in Ilminster can I get my sports and fitness gear/nutrition? Where in Ilminster can I buy a new DVD or video game? Where in Ilminster can I buy my books? Splitting it into two/three/four/etc is a good idea, as that would allow a smaller craft shop and something else, which adds more appeal, but solely being a craft shop isn't the best of news.
A craft shop in my opinion has fairly limited appeal in the present day due to it targeting a specific demographic and I think that is why there is a bit of resistance from the comments regarding it. If I recall correctly, there have been quite a few craft shops open in Chard that have all failed due to the lack of business (among other things of course). The 'Where in Ilminster' argument can apply to anything. Where in Ilminster can I get my sports and fitness gear/nutrition? Where in Ilminster can I buy a new DVD or video game? Where in Ilminster can I buy my books? Splitting it into two/three/four/etc is a good idea, as that would allow a smaller craft shop and something else, which adds more appeal, but solely being a craft shop isn't the best of news. Nyreen
  • Score: 3

4:32pm Thu 10 Jul 14

QuillPen says...

FAir comment, Nyreen. I take your point about fitness gear etc.

Although needle and thread are very basic things which can be needed on an everyday basis. It seems ridiculous to have to go to Yeovil or Taunton to get a reel of thread when I need one of a specific colour to sew a button on or make a repair.
FAir comment, Nyreen. I take your point about fitness gear etc. Although needle and thread are very basic things which can be needed on an everyday basis. It seems ridiculous to have to go to Yeovil or Taunton to get a reel of thread when I need one of a specific colour to sew a button on or make a repair. QuillPen
  • Score: -8

5:48pm Thu 10 Jul 14

MrWendall says...

Needle and thread (multicolour pack of thread) are available in Tesco - but I'm sure QuillPen will cut off his/her nose to spite their face and claim they couldn't possibly go in there.

Besides they are hardly "everyday things" more than the items listed by Nyreen. I've maybe needed to sew one button on in the last 10 years. I made do with black rather than brown thread.

As Bob Dylan sang - "The times they are a changing"
Needle and thread (multicolour pack of thread) are available in Tesco - but I'm sure QuillPen will cut off his/her nose to spite their face and claim they couldn't possibly go in there. Besides they are hardly "everyday things" more than the items listed by Nyreen. I've maybe needed to sew one button on in the last 10 years. I made do with black rather than brown thread. As Bob Dylan sang - "The times they are a changing" MrWendall
  • Score: 7

7:46pm Thu 10 Jul 14

regularreader says...

Instead of whingeing about what can or cannot be purchased in Ilminster, nobody seems to be commenting on the reasons for Dyer's closing. The items sold in there are far too expensive (even at half-price some of them) and there is, in my opinion a lack of business knowledge in the purchasing department. Some of the clothes in the windows would be more at home on Oxford Street, London. The internet will, no doubt have had an effect on sales, but with clever marketing the effect could have been reduced. Shirley, Tony and the other visible staff have persevered with this situation and must have known what was happening. Such a pity they couldn't get a management buy-out together.
p.s. Nyreen. I wonder, do you live in Ilminster? There are two book shops in the town that I can think of and one of them almost opposite Dyer's, not to mention all the other outlets for second-hand books. If you require specialist books, I'm sure Drew would be very willing to order for you.
Instead of whingeing about what can or cannot be purchased in Ilminster, nobody seems to be commenting on the reasons for Dyer's closing. The items sold in there are far too expensive (even at half-price some of them) and there is, in my opinion a lack of business knowledge in the purchasing department. Some of the clothes in the windows would be more at home on Oxford Street, London. The internet will, no doubt have had an effect on sales, but with clever marketing the effect could have been reduced. Shirley, Tony and the other visible staff have persevered with this situation and must have known what was happening. Such a pity they couldn't get a management buy-out together. p.s. Nyreen. I wonder, do you live in Ilminster? There are two book shops in the town that I can think of and one of them almost opposite Dyer's, not to mention all the other outlets for second-hand books. If you require specialist books, I'm sure Drew would be very willing to order for you. regularreader
  • Score: 13

7:39am Fri 11 Jul 14

Dick Turpin Works For Council says...

regularreader wrote:
Instead of whingeing about what can or cannot be purchased in Ilminster, nobody seems to be commenting on the reasons for Dyer's closing. The items sold in there are far too expensive (even at half-price some of them) and there is, in my opinion a lack of business knowledge in the purchasing department. Some of the clothes in the windows would be more at home on Oxford Street, London. The internet will, no doubt have had an effect on sales, but with clever marketing the effect could have been reduced. Shirley, Tony and the other visible staff have persevered with this situation and must have known what was happening. Such a pity they couldn't get a management buy-out together.
p.s. Nyreen. I wonder, do you live in Ilminster? There are two book shops in the town that I can think of and one of them almost opposite Dyer's, not to mention all the other outlets for second-hand books. If you require specialist books, I'm sure Drew would be very willing to order for you.
Interesting mention of the specialist book shop; the last time I enquired therein about a book I was told "I can get it from Amazon for you".
I was horrified. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised though!
[quote][p][bold]regularreader[/bold] wrote: Instead of whingeing about what can or cannot be purchased in Ilminster, nobody seems to be commenting on the reasons for Dyer's closing. The items sold in there are far too expensive (even at half-price some of them) and there is, in my opinion a lack of business knowledge in the purchasing department. Some of the clothes in the windows would be more at home on Oxford Street, London. The internet will, no doubt have had an effect on sales, but with clever marketing the effect could have been reduced. Shirley, Tony and the other visible staff have persevered with this situation and must have known what was happening. Such a pity they couldn't get a management buy-out together. p.s. Nyreen. I wonder, do you live in Ilminster? There are two book shops in the town that I can think of and one of them almost opposite Dyer's, not to mention all the other outlets for second-hand books. If you require specialist books, I'm sure Drew would be very willing to order for you.[/p][/quote]Interesting mention of the specialist book shop; the last time I enquired therein about a book I was told "I can get it from Amazon for you". I was horrified. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised though! Dick Turpin Works For Council
  • Score: 4

3:35pm Tue 29 Jul 14

Argyll says...

I first started work in R A Dyers in January 1967, a long time ago! it was a real old fashioned emporium and our customers came from far out of town.Mr Dyer treated all his customers with great respect and was always at hand to speak to them. I left after a few years to have my family and like many other former employees return after the children grew up. I worked there with Mrs Davis and made some very good friends among staff and customers. I came out of retirement along with some others to set the business up and running for Mrs Speke, it saddens me to see that after all the hard work and particularly the good buying skillls of LIn Shirley And Tony that its all going. I feel if these three had been allowed to continue with the buying it might have not had to come to this.I do realise that times change. It will be a very sad day for Ilminster when the shop that opened in 1870 is closed.
I first started work in R A Dyers in January 1967, a long time ago! it was a real old fashioned emporium and our customers came from far out of town.Mr Dyer treated all his customers with great respect and was always at hand to speak to them. I left after a few years to have my family and like many other former employees return after the children grew up. I worked there with Mrs Davis and made some very good friends among staff and customers. I came out of retirement along with some others to set the business up and running for Mrs Speke, it saddens me to see that after all the hard work and particularly the good buying skillls of LIn Shirley And Tony that its all going. I feel if these three had been allowed to continue with the buying it might have not had to come to this.I do realise that times change. It will be a very sad day for Ilminster when the shop that opened in 1870 is closed. Argyll
  • Score: 0

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