Community shops show strong health and wealth

Community shops are growing at a fast pace and have a high survival rate, according to the Plunkett Foundation.

The most comprehensive survey into the health of the community-owned shop sector ever to be undertaken showed that an average of 19 new shops per year opened over the last decade. The report, which draws on information from community-owned shops across the UK, assesses the health and wealth of the sector today and provides an in-depth analysis into its profitability and contribution to the local economy. 

According to the report, community shops now represent a rational and achievable alternative for communities who have lost or are at risk of losing their village shop. With only eight of 259 shops ever having closed, the 97 per cent survival rate of community shops presents a positive picture for the future resilience of the community shop sector. This rate compares with estimations for UK businesses nationally, which are estimated to have a five year survival rate of 46.8 per cent. 

Community shop growth is strongest in the south-west of England, closely followed by the south-east. There are various socio-economic reasons for this, but this clustering effect can be attributed in part to communities being inspired by neighbouring communities, and leaning on them for support. 

In March, Plunkett established the Community Shops Network, a national forum that enables communities from all over the UK to share their knowledge and provide support to each other. There are currently over 200 members of the Network, with members from every region. 

Based on the data of 91 shops that were prepared to share financial information, turnovers for the 2009–10 financial year varied from £3,000 to £900,000, with an average of £132,655. This represents growth of seven per cent based on figures recorded for 2008–09.Taking the average turnover of £132,655 per shop, Plunkett has estimated that the collective turnover for the 251 community shops in the UK is in the region of £33m. 

It is estimated that community shops attracted over one million volunteer hours throughout 2010, which represents a saving of over £7 million in staff wages. 

James Alcock, Community Retail Manager of the Plunkett Foundation, said: “Community-ownership works. It works in a variety of different communities in a multitude of different ways.We believe that the people affected by a problem should be in charge of solving it through sustainable enterprise which is both owned and run locally for the benefit of the community. 

“It is clear from this report how successful the community-owned shop model has been at doing this; it’s vital now that the Government continues to support these communities to succeed, particularly through legislation like the Community Right to Buy.”

• Visit to download the report.


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