Community-owned October Books makes a call for more member investors

‘The aim is to secure the long-term financial future of October Books while providing a future platform to positively impact social change’

October Books, an independent bookshop and is now a community benefit society in Southampton, has launched a £175,000 share offer, to secure its long-term future and expand its services.

Alongside the share offer, it is converting £171,346 of existing loanstock to shares.

It says: “We want this investment to improve our services we can offer to our community and allow us to increase the number of projects and benefits we can provide to our community.

“The aim is to secure the long-term financial future of October Books while providing a future platform for both ourselves and all members of our community to positively impact social change in our local community and allow us all to work towards a better more inclusive future.”

The share offer runs until the 31 October 2022 and is open to new investors, or existing members who want to increase their investment.

October Books started out as a worker co-op in 1981, and converted to a multi-stakeholder model in 2017 following consultations with the local community. It now has more than 100 members, who were contacted last year when the business changed model again, this time to community benefit society.

“We think that the CBS model better reflects October Books’ current organisation and operation,” the organisation says on its share offer page, “in that our community is involved in much of the decision-making and in the operation of the business. The current worker team feel this is a much more resilient organisational model, which will allow the business to continue to operate for the benefit of the community regardless of the members of the worker team.”

It says that as “patient capital”, the community shares are only repaid them when it is financially viable to do so. “This means that those investing in the business have a real incentive to help the business to thrive and prosper. We will be offering interest on our community shares in the same way as we offered interest on our loanstock for those who took us up on this, a simple annual payment.

“Again, there is a real incentive here for community share holders to support and help the business as, if the business is not doing so well then, the payment of interest can be waived.”

For those who do need their investment returned, there are a rules which permit this with three months notice, at the board’s discretion.  

Every holder of community shares has a right to vote on significant business decisions at member meetings, with one vote per member regardless of the number of shares a person holds.

“We are looking at alternative voting options but to begin with decisions will be made by simple majority voting,” October Books adds. “If you are interested in being on the board please do let us know.”

The society has also secured £6,000 in support from the Community Share Booster Programme through Co-operatives UK.

We have also already been pledged £170,000 worth of investment from our existing members and investors!