Friday, June 24, 2011

GUEST POST The community shops movement

Mike Perry is Head of Information and Communication for the Plunkett Foundation.

As Jonathan has mentioned in a previous blog village shops closing or having been converted into housing is an increasingly common site across rural Britain. It is estimated that around 400 village shops have closed each year for the past three years. Most of these will be the last shop in a community.

Increasingly rural communities are fighting back by setting up community-owned village shops. This is real and has not only happened on The Archers. There are now 259 community-owned shops across the UK and the number is increasing by between 20 and 40 each year. They are set up in all sorts of building – the previous shop, a new build, a church, a pub, a Portakabin, a village hall and there has even been a shop set up in a former public toilet.

The Plunkett Foundation is best known for its support for communities looking to take over their local shop. Support has been developed with a range of partners and funders to ensure that communities have the best support possible when taking on the challenge of saving their local shop.

Volunteers are critical for the success of most community-owned shops being involved in governance and day to day management and staffing. An average of 25 people volunteer in each shop from a membership of 125. One million volunteer hours per year goes into running the network of community-owned shops across the UK.

More recently Plunkett has launched a membership scheme for community-owned shops to benefit from bulk purchasing of energy, insurance, credit and debit facilities and much more. Launched in March, 20 community-owned shops have so far joined benefiting from significantly lower costs that helps boost their profitability.

Community-owned shops are not only opening at a rapid rate, they are also staying open. Some 97 per cent of community-owned shops that have ever opened are still open. The model works and communities are increasingly using it to try saving or introducing other vital services whether this is saving the local pub, buying land for communal growing or establishing a community-owned broadband enterprise.

It is clear that taking on something of this nature is a challenge currently with many barriers facing communities. It is the role of government, support organisations and rural communities to help each other to make this process easier.

Find out more on the Plunkett Foundation website.

1 comment:

portable cabin guy said...

".....and there has even been a shop set up in a former public toilet".

Is this then classed as a cottage industry? :)