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 – at the end of 2020 392 community shops were trading in the UK and of those that have opened there is a long term survival rate of 92.5%. (From Plunkett publication, ‘Community Shops – A better form of business 2021‘.)
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.