FAQ – Viability

Many people prudently question the financial viability of a village shop nowadays. Here are some of the more common questions we have considered.

Can any village shop survive these days?

The right sort of village shop can survive – and the community shop business model is a tried and tested model. There are around 250 examples across the country, with a 97% success rate. It is true however, that there are important ‘success factors’ for a community shop – in summary these are:

  • Decoupling the capital requirements of the business from the trading (especially important in areas of high property prices like Slindon)
  • Giving the business the advantage of the advice and expertise of local people with relevant knowledge
  • Creating a strong sense of ownership and support by the community by really meeting local needs.
  • Replacing tired ‘old world’ ways of running a village shop with a fresh, contemporary store selling things people actually want! See other examples of good local community shops to find out what we mean by this. Kirdford, Lodsworth, Graffham, South Harting and Amberley are all worth a visit.

All of these ‘success factors’ are evident in our plans - more details about this are given in section 2 of our business plan, or see the Plunkett Foundation website www.plunkett.co.uk

Who will run it?

In order to thrive, the venture needs to be run to a high professional standard. Our preferred option is to employ a paid manager, plus support staff, aided by a pool of volunteers. Our current manager is Chris Ward. Team leader in charge of the kitchen is Sarah Ellis. Other staff members are Ben Shepperd and Kieran Ellis.

Finding the RIGHT people (in terms of business and personal skills) is crucial, and we are fortunate that within our team we have people with the expertise to appraise and interview managers.

Isn’t Slindon too small to support a shop?

This is probably true – which is why the business plan does not propose a shop alone and targeted solely at villagers. A broader target market and broader offering (i.e. the café and information point) are central to the success of the initiative.

People shop on-line nowadays – doesn’t that mean they don’t go to shops like this any more?

Paradoxically, the more people shop on-line, then the more they need to do top-up/secondary shopping. The need for fresh food, daily staples, speciality food etc is not met by big on-line shopping. It isn’t viable to order the odd pint of milk or a few carrots on-line. Moreover, those whose main shop is now on-line are less likely to be visiting main supermarkets on a regular basis – which in turn means top-up/secondary shopping is more likely to be done at convenient local stores, such as The Forge. (Indeed this is why smaller Sainsbury’s Local and Tesco Metro stores proliferate elsewhere).

Why do we need it – Slindon isn’t remote and there are lots of shops nearby?

Three points are relevant here:

  • This argument ignores the strategic and policy-linked fact that Slindon scores extremely poorly in terms of Access to Essential Services as measured by the Indices of Multiple Deprivation. Indeed this is the reason that Slindon was identified as the one of two most pressing cases in the county qualifying for RASP (Rural Access to Services Programme) support by West Sussex County Council
  • The competitive analysis given in section 7 of the business plan shows that an effective community shop at The Forge can indeed offer significant competitive advantages over other shops in the area. Put another way, why would anyone get in their car and drive past the Forge to get to another, less appealing shop?
  • Perhaps most importantly, the people of Slindon have consistently said that they WANT a village shop. From the dismay at the closure of the previous shop, to the Parish Plan in 2006 and the results of the consultation over the Forge, the community have consistently shown enthusiasm for a shop in the village.

We had a shop before – it failed, so why should this be different?

It is crucial to understand the reasons for the failure of the previous shop. This is described in some detail in Section 10 of our business plan and indicates that the proposed Forge project would be different in a number of fundamental and specific ways – sufficient to create a quite different and viable business. (Sections 5 and 6 of the business plan are also relevant to this issue).