AUG 20, 2013: At a time of hardship, one sector of the economy is proving to be a real success story – the community shop. There are now well over 300 such shops across the UK, and scores more are in the process of setting up.
The Plunkett Foundation, which specialises in supporting such ventures, is currently receiving 30 to 40 new enquiries each month. Spokesman James Alcock said: “Community-owned village shops continue to be one of the leading success stories of the UK co-operative and social enterprise movement. In 1993 there were just 23 community-owned shops; 20 years on there are over 300, with a further 30 anticipated to open in 2013 alone.” “They are quite a sector in their own right now, and are really punching above their weight. An added advantage is that 19 per cent of profits go back to community projects.” Mr Alcock said that such shops are performing a vital role. They safeguard essential services, create a hub for the local community, reduce the sense of isolation for people in rural areas, make a contribution to the local economy, create jobs and provide volunteering and training opportunities. For many people, such work is the first step on the employment ladder. Community shops have a survival rate of 96 per cent, far in excess of the average small business. On average, each has four paid members and 31 volunteers. The Plunkett Foundation (www.plunkett.co.uk) is one of many groups supported by The Prince’s Countryside Fund.