AN innovative attempt to address the decline of village shops has been launched in Nottinghamshire.
Next to the village hall in the quiet village of Elston, near Newark, is the country's first Shop In A Box. Selling a wide range of everyday provisions, the shop is housed in a portacabin that was dropped into place by a crane. By drastically reducing overheads and recruiting a large team of active volunteers, the local community now not only has a local shop but a focal point and meeting place in the village.
Shop In A Box is the brainchild of Chris Fitzpatrick, retail development officer at the Nottinghamshire Rural Community Council.
He told the News that the role village shops play in community life should not be underestimated: "When the village shop closes, the heart of that village often dies. Many villages become dormitory villages with people just using them to sleep in before getting up to travel off to work. Although the shop's only been open a few weeks in Elston, people are already coming together not just to run the shop but to meet up for a chat and a coffee.
"The previous village shop closed five years ago and it's a three mile journey to the other nearest shop with just one bus a day – opening the Shop In A Box has been a godsend for many in the village."
The shop is open seven days a week and is staffed by two paid workers and a large team of volunteers each working a couple of hours a week.
As well as the shop and small café, there are plans for additional services: computers are being installed to offer villagers internet access, the police surgery is being held there and it will act as a parcel collection point if people are out when parcels are delivered to their homes.
Mr Fitzpatrick aims to work with other local communities to create a network of similar shops, enabling them to negotiate better deals with suppliers and wholesalers.
For further information contact Chris Fitzpatrick, (01623) 727600.