Mull shop owner thinks outside the (honesty) box

IT IS one of the more remote shops in Scotland, situated at the end of a seven-mile, single-track road in the Hebrides.

Flora Corbett believes honesty is the best policy at her isolated shop on Mull. Picture: Moira Kerr

And travel-weary customers are delighted to find that it is open all hours and sells everything, from a cup of tea to a frozen steak – but there is not a sales assistant in sight.

The Old Post Office, at Lochbuie, on the Isle of Mull, operates as an honesty shop, trusting all its customers to leave the correct amount of money for the goods they take.

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Mother-of-two Flora Corbett has revealed she came up with the idea of the unmanned shop after deciding that people who found themselves in such a remote area might need supplied and that having driven so far to get there, they “will be honest”.

She said: “There were all these people coming down here and there were amazing views and scenery but there was nothing else here, so I decided that there was an opportunity.”

Lochbuie’s main claim to fame is that it is home to one of Scotland’s smallest polling stations, with only 32 voters. It has no school, no pub and no post office.

Mrs Corbett, 39, said: “The post office had been shut for four years. The building was still here, although it was dilapidated, so I had a new roof put on and opened the shop there.”

Her family moved to Lochbuie from Inverness two years ago, so that her husband Tom could help his father, who runs the local estate.

However, with jobs in short supply, Mrs Corbett decided the easiest way to find work was to start her own business.

She said: “I wanted to do the shop on an honesty basis because I thought if people have driven down a seven-mile road to get here, they will be honest, and it would be uneconomical for me to stay here all day.

“There was a guy from Newcastle here and he said you could only do this here – that if you did this in Newcastle not only would the stuff for sale be gone but the shed would be gone as well.”

Mrs Corbett has had only one instance of goods being taken without payment in the two years she has operated the shop.

She said: “On the whole, things don’t go missing and people often end up being over-honest because something is £4 and they put a fiver in.

“Sometimes people have taken things and have left an IOU and then paid the next day.”

Mrs Corbett started off offering tea and coffee products, as well as home baking, then gradually expanded as other businesses asked her to stock their products.

Now customers can buy a selection of local meats, cheeses, eggs, gifts, cards and knitted goods, and Mrs Corbett has even branched out into delivering her own home-cooked meals to holidaymakers staying in self-catering accommodation on Mull.

Holidaymakers Alan and Sharon Arblaster, from Chesterfield, said no trip to the area was complete without a visit to the shop.

Mrs Arblaster said: “When we are on holiday we always come in here and we always tell people about it.

“You couldn’t leave money out anywhere else, but I think it’s a fantastic idea.”

Her husband said: “I have been to lots of remote places and I have never seen a shop with an honesty box.”