Community shops from across the UK and Ireland are invited to submit applications for Plunkett Foundation’s Community Shop Awards.
The awards are designed to recognise and reward community shops for achieving excellence. The initiative is also aimed at raising awareness over the issues which many local community-owned shops face.
Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of Plunkett Foundation, said: “There are now over 300 community-owned shops across the UK, thriving in a climate that has seen many villages lose their shop or pub.
“These communities have rallied to save their shop from closure, reopening it under community ownership. They have built a committed team to engage with everyone within their community to keep their shop up and running, delivering a vital service, day in, day out."
Nominations are now open for the six awards: Contribution to Community Life, Rewarding Volunteers, Co‐operation in Action, Creative Display, Retail Innovation and Better Business.
Mr Couchman added: “The Awards will raise awareness not only of the fantastic achievements of the 303 community shops already trading, but also of the potential of co-operation for even more communities across the UK, hopefully inspiring them into action.”
One such example is a community shop in Burton, Lonsdale, sometimes referred to as “the last village in Yorkshire”. When the village’s only community shop closed in 2004, the community started a fundraising campaign in an attempt to save the shop.
Shares to nearly 200 villagers at £10 each were issued and one year later the shop was reopened and is now a successful social enterprise, keeping money local by helping local producers to sell their products.
The story of Burton is only one example of the challenges faced by many village shops across the UK. According to Plunkett, an estimated 400 village shops and 700 rural pubs close each year, with communities beginning to see community-ownership as a solution to the problem.
There are 303 community-owned shops open and trading, and on average employ 900 staff and 8,190 volunteers; have 41,769 members; offer 174 Post Offices services and 152 cafes; and stock 5,187 suppliers of goods and services.
Plunkett Foundation is the only national organisation supporting the development of community-owned village shops. Plunkett offers a wide range of services to community shops, from advice in terms of legislation, to specialist business support or press and media advice.
Plunkett has six Community Advisers across the UK, who visit communities directly to make sure they provide tailored advice at all stages of development.
For communities at the feasibility stage a Bursary of up to £2,000 is also available through a programme supported by Esmee Fairbairn.
To find out more about the Awards or enter the contest visit http://www.communityshops.coop/awards