Overview Of Community Shops
Community shops are springing up all over the country. Why is this? Many of our villages have become commuter dormitories for nearby towns, where villagers do most of their shopping.
Not so long ago, the village shop provided essential services at the heart of a vibrant local community. But many shops are closing….the figures speak for themselves with about 400 privately owned village shops putting up their shutters for good each year.
In many places across the UK, villagers being resourceful people, have taken matters into their own hands and opened a community shop.
Community shops not only provide an improved business model compared to a traditional shop, but also reinvigorate social activity in a village.
At the heart of a community shop are volunteers, who often own shares in the enterprise and contribute to its vibrancy, as well as injecting a range of skills and ideas.
Typically, a community shop will have a paid shop manager who is responsible for the finances, stock ordering and control, and staffing.
The acquisition of premises is often an initial hurdle, but this problem can be overcome in several ways. Often an agreement can be made with the owners of the defunct shop premises. If this is not an option, then a new prefabricated building could be erected.
Benefits of a Community Shop
There are many benefits flowing from having a community shop. Here are just a few……
- They provide a service for people disadvantaged by a lack of personal transport or limited physical ability
- A large number of the local community are engaged, which stimulates social activity. Typically the shop will involve over 150 members, 7 directors, 30 volunteers and 3 staff.
- With an average turnover of £155,000, they have a positive impact on the local economy
- Local suppliers and producers benefit financially by supplying the shop
- They open for long hours and host ancillary services such as a post office and café.
- Car journeys to alternative food stores are reduced, saving on average a 8 mile round trip
- The success rate for community shops is extremely high at 95%, compared to a national average of 46% for small business start ups.
How Do You Set The Ball Rolling
Many villages have a broad range of expertise in their midst. A committee needs to be formed drawing upon this expertise. Ideally you might have an accountant, an architect, a land agent and someone experienced with dealing with staff and recruitment on the committee.
It is essential that villagers and people from the locality strongly support the proposals.
A questionnaire should be distributed to gauge the level of interest. Once enthusiastic support is shown by the community, a public meeting can be held at which detailed proposals are presented.
It is recommended that a Community Benefit Society is established which is empowered to offer shares for sale in support of the village shop. These shares do not attract any interest, nor do they rise or fall in value. Purchasers of the shares are investing in the wellbeing of the local community.
The cost of purchasing each share would be around £20. The aim being to raise between £50,000 and £70,000 from this source. Grants for substantiate sums of money can also be applied for.
I hope that this article has sown the seeds for more community shops around the country. An organisation which is dedicated to advising villages on how to establish a community shop is called Plunkett