I’m often asked whether community shops are viable in the long term. Whether once they are up and running and they face a couple of problems do they decide that it is not worth it any more and close. For those of us involved with community shops, the answer in an emphatic no. A stat we often quote is that of 291 community shops to open over the past 20 years 278 are still open. I’ve tried and failed to find examples of enterprises that get anywhere close to this level of long term viability.
I’m also often asked why community shops so rarely close, especially as they tend to be based in communities where private businesses have previously failed. I think there are three main reasons
- The community owns, controls and benefit from the community shop
- Community shops have a wide membership based (typically around 150) so they benefit from the energy and creativity of all of these people
- Once a community fights to save something, they’ll continue to fight to keep it open every day
Despite this success, you shouldn’t read this and think that it is easy to set up and run a community shop. It takes a lot of hard work from a range of different people each and every day to make sure they serve the needs of their members and their wider community. The difference seems to be that those involved seem to have a great deal of fun along the way. Built to last? We think so!
For the first time ever, there will be a Community Shops Fortnight held in 2012. It’s going to be held to coincide with Co-operatives Fortnight and as part of the celebrations for the UN International Year of Co-operatives. It’s being held from 23 June to 7 July and we hope many community shops will get involved by running events and celebrations in their communities.
There are now 278 community shops across the UK stretching from the Shetland Islands to Cornwall. We at Plunkett feel they have something to celebrate. Firstly their ongoing work keeping vital services in rural and often very remote rural communities. This is hard but ultimately rewarding work. Secondly, 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of a support service for community-owned shops being set up. Thirdly, community shops continue to grow both in terms of numbers and financially also – more about this in our upcoming Better Business – Community Retailing report.
We’re looking forward to the fortnight beginning!
Well this is my first blog post.
I work at the Plunkett Foundation, an organisation that helps rural communities through community ownership to take control of the issues affecting them. We’re involved in a whole range of interesting stuff that helps to support rural communities to set up community-owned enterprises like community-owned shops and co-operative pubs.
The purpose of this blog is to share with our members, the communities we support, the people we work with and the wider world what we do and why.
The blog look at what we’re doing to influence policy and practice to make it easier for people to set up and run community-owned enterprises. Alongside hopefully interesting posts about the wonderful world of community-owned enterprises I’ll also be posting comments and updates on various policies that we’re keen on influencing for the benefit of rural communities.