2014 was another good year for the UK’s community shop sector, according to research by rural charity the Plunkett Foundation. Its latest report, Community-Owned Village Shops 2014, shows the trading performance of established shops is continuing to grow.
Like-for-like sales growth was 1.9% in 2013, outstripping that of major supermarkets for the third year running. And 17 new community-owned village shops opened, representing a 6% annual growth rate. Community shops have been opening at an average rate of 27 per year during the last five years.
In 1994 there were just 27 community shops trading in the UK; 20 years on there are 309, with a further 18 expected to open in 2014. There is a higher proportion of community shops trading in the south west and south east of England and a greater number of communities exploring community-ownership in these two regions. The most likely explanation for this, according to Plunkett, is that rural communities are being inspired by the achievements of their neighbouring communities and want to replicate their success.
Fifty-three per cent of those are registered as an industrial and provident society for the benefit of the community, while 14% are trading as a company limited by guarantee, 9% as an IPS co-operative and 8% as a community interest company.
Turnover in 2013 varied from £6,500 to £1,103,653, averaging at £154,687 per shop. This was based on data from 163 shops prepared to share financial information for the purposes of the report. Based on this, Plunkett estimates the collective turnover for the UK’s 309 community shops in the region of £48m.
“We’re continuing to see the community shop sector grow,” said James Alcock, head of frontline at Plunkett. “We’re also seeing the trading performance of community shops improving.”
The report also highlights the resilience of the sector, with the five-year survival rate of community shops at 99%. “This compares extremely positively with estimations for UK businesses,” Mr Alcock said. According to the Office for National Statistics, businesses have an estimated five-year survival rate of 45%.
According to the report, the sector employs 871 paid staff and 8,158 volunteers, representing 791,831 volunteer hours. It provides 170 Post Offices within community shops, and 131 cafés.
Plunkett published the report as part of Community Shops Fortnight 2014, an annual celebration of the success of the communities across the UK that have saved their village shop. At present there are 316 such communities, an increase of seven since the research for report was conducted.
Mr Alcock added: “Our founder, Sir Horace Plunkett, believed that to succeed, a co‑operative must remain engaged and connected with its local community. We are seeing community shops doing just that, particularly by adding additional services to shops that go beyond a core retail offering – services such as book swaps and libraries, cafés, meeting rooms for clubs and societies, recycling centres, parcel collection and delivery points, bakeries, and community gardens.
“As a result, community shops are no longer just seen as a solution for communities wishing to replace like-for-like retail services in rural areas when they are lost; communities are also looking to community-ownership to stimulate social and community activity and to address issues such as social isolation and loneliness. For this reason, we see a bright future for community shops.”
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