HARTINGTON: Say cheese – Peak web shop is something to smile about

Business is booming for a Peak District cheese shop thanks to an enterprising new e-shop on the official tourist board’s website.

Visit Peak District and Derbyshire’s joint initiative to develop the web portal with the University of Derby Buxton (UDB) is boosting on-line trade for The Old Cheese Shop at Hartington – whose co-owner Claire Millner has hailed it as a ‘phenomenon’ within weeks of its launch.

“It’s a real success,” confirmed Claire. “A third of our hits now come from the Visit Peak District and Derbyshire e-shop, and it’s only recently gone live!”

The aim of the LEADER-funded, Extending the Season project – led by the UDB and supported by the tourist board - is to highlight, promote and drive online traffic to some of the best Peak District products and experiences, including food and drink.

The Inspired by the Peak portal also opens a virtual doorway to Peak Experiences such as cookery courses and walking adventures, Peak Arts and Crafts and Peak Images taken by some of the area’s leading photographers.

Its initial impact is a welcome boost for the Hartington economy, which in 2009 reeled when 180 people lost their jobs in the closure of the village cheese factory, which had made blue stilton there for more than a century.

Claire is one of the founders of the Hartington Creamery, which began making cheese again on a smaller scale at Pikehall, between Ashbourne and Buxton, and she is now selling it as fast as it can be made at the Old Cheese Shop, as well as online.

“We even export it to Japan,” said Claire, who is now building on the extra hits generated by the website. “Now it’s our job to turn this into sales, but we’ve found that if the site is easy to use, people will come back.” David James, Chief Executive of Visit Peak District and Derbyshire, said: “It’s excellent news that our new Inspired by the Peak portal has had such a positive impact for The Old Cheese Shop within weeks of its launch. “Their experience has shown that it has great potential to give tourism-related businesses an all-year-round platform to sell their goods and services to a huge audience via our website, which attracts more than three million visits a year.

“I hope it will encourage more people to book space and give visitors a true flavour the area – putting them in touch with everything from quality food and drink to special experiences and locally-inspired arts, crafts and photographic images.”

Dr Peter Dewhurst, UDB’s Strategic Director, added: “The e-shop turns people’s computers into a shop window for the Peak District. Top local producers can now tap into a worldwide web of potential customers. I hope it will also boost tourism, as visitors old and new can now quite literally get a taste of the Peak sent directly to their homes.

“This project reflects the close working relationship that we have developed with Visit Peak District and Derbyshire, one of the UK’s leading tourist boards – a link that is presenting our students with some outstanding real world learning opportunities geared to maximising their employability skills. It also reflects the University’s commitment to supporting the local economy and local businesses.”

See for yourself by visiting www.visitpeakdistrict.com. Businesses can book space by contacting the tourist board’s industry team on 01246 212924.