Community shops are essentially village shops that are democratically owned by members of the community. They trade as businesses, but they trade primarily for community benefit. They have a voluntary membership, whereby members of the village can buy shares and become part owners of the business. All members have an equal say in how the business is run regardless of their level of investment.
There are various models for managing a community shop. The majority of community shops in the UK are managed and run directly by the community, mostly by a combination of paid staff and volunteers, however, some have all volunteers and some all paid staff.
Community shops are a resilient form of business – out of the 350 community shops that have ever opened in England, Scotland and Wales, only 15 have ceased to trade, which gives a survival rate of 95%. This compares extremely positively with estimations for UK small business nationally which have a five-year survival rate of 41%. (From Plunkett publication, ‘A better form of business 2017 Community Shops‘.)
Community shops succeed for a number of reasons, but most importantly they engage the community and stimulate social activity and community cohesion.
Because the community has a shared ownership of the shop they are more likely to shop there, which gives a stronger sales base than privately owned village shops. Also, they tend to have lower overheads as they are often staffed by volunteers and some shops pay no rent as the community may raise the funds to buy a property for the shop to use.
If you’re interested in seeing a community shop in action, we recommend that you pay a visit to one of these great village shops: