These are some of the findings from a new report ‘Community Shops: A better form of business’ which provides a comprehensive look into the research available on the performance and impact of community shops in the UK. Published on 5 July 2017 by Plunkett Foundation, the leading support organisation for community shops which has been promoting co-operation in rural communities for nearly 100 years. 

The research shows that at the end of 2016: 

  • There were 348 community shops trading in the UK providing essential services to 1,400 remote rural communities
  • They created 1,114 paid jobs and 9,605 volunteer positions
  • They generated a combined turnover of £54m and donated £125,000 to community projects
  • No community shops have closed in the last two years resulting in a 95% long term survival rate
  • There are community shops open throughout the UK with a significant concentration (32%) in South West England.

All community shops are independent democratic businesses owned and ultimately controlled by their members on the basis of one member one vote, regardless of the number of shares owned. Over 62,000 people have shares in community shops. 

The report highlights that there even though there has been no decline in the number of enquiries Plunkett Foundation receives from communities exploring the community shop model, the rate of new community shops opening has slowed. This most likely reflects the increased difficulty community groups experience in accessing grants and securing premises as well as the increased complexity of the projects themselves. 

The premises used by community shops vary widely. The largest proportion (38%) are based in former village shop premises but increasingly communities have been establishing shops in converted premises and new-builds. Unusual examples of conversions include a dovecote, bus shelter, fire station, public toilets and freight containers. 

Only 26% of communities own the freehold of their shop. This was not flagged as a concern by shops in the survey but is a risk that Plunkett Foundation is continuing to monitor. 

Community shops provide much more than everyday essentials:

  • 43% have some form of café
  • 59% provide Post Office services
  • 48% offer home delivery
  • 18% collect prescriptions
  • 95% stock local food

They also contribute to community life in various ways including running affordable food schemes, hosting arts and cultural activities, providing training, improving community safety, promoting tourism and providing disability services; 71% of community shops surveyed said they actively addressed the health care and wellbeing of customers in various ways. 

James Alcock, General Manager at Plunkett Foundation, said: “Community shops are a great leveller – they bring people together of all ages, backgrounds, interests, and give them a purpose to interact. This can benefit new residents who want to meet their neighbours, young parents who feel isolated at home, teenagers seeking work and life experience, the retired seeking opportunities to remain active, and those who live alone or are carers and have no other way of meeting people. Put simply, community shops reduce social isolation and loneliness.”

 ‘Community Shops: A better form of business’ is based on data sourced from the Financial Conduct Authority and Companies House, electronic questionnaires and follow-up telephone surveys, and additional information held by Plunkett Foundation on every community shop since 2002. The data collection, analysis, and written report were undertaken by Plunkett Foundation and supported by data provided by Co‑operatives UK. This work was funded by The Power to Change Research Institute. 

James Alcock added: “I would like to thank the many people involved in community shops who contributed to this report by taking part in surveys, sending photographs, and telling their stories. We also thank our funders and partners who help us to sustain our service for community shops.”

Plunkett Foundation represents a network of over 500 rural community co-operatives that are trading in all parts of the UK. It supports these organisations to thrive and helps new ones to get started. It aims to grow this sector by raising awareness of the co-operative model to more communities, and to reach geographic areas and individuals most in need.

-ENDS-

Media Enquiries please contact:
Ashley Sellwood, 01993 810730 / Ashley.Sellwood@Plunkett.co.uk   

Photographs are available upon request.

Notes to Editors:

Plunkett Foundation (www.plunkett.co.uk) helps communities to take control of their challenges and overcome them together. We support people, predominantly in rural areas, to set up and run life-changing community co-operatives; enterprises that are owned and run democratically by large numbers of people in their community. They help people to tackle a range of issues, from isolation and loneliness to poverty, and come in many forms including shops, cafes, pubs and land-based initiatives, and everything in between.

About Power to Change
Power to Change is an independent charitable trust endowed with £150 million from the Big Lottery Fund to grow community business in England. Over ten years, we will provide funding and support to help build many more successful and sustainable local community businesses across England.