Local shops are a focal point for any community. They are part of its history and part of its story. Without them our villages and towns become simple dormitories but sadly they are closing at an alarming rate. Independent traders are having to shut up shop due to the punishing economics created by out of town supermarkets and rising business rates. It’s not just retailers that suffer, there’s also a knock-on effect to other local businesses. In rural areas the impact is perhaps more acutely felt.
But all is not lost. There are a growing number, 300 at the last count, of local shops that are being turned into community owned enterprises.
There are a number of organisations set up to help communities in this predicament. The Plunkett Foundation (plunkett.co.uk), helps rural co-ops to develop, and Brighter Futures Together (www.brighterfuturestogether.co.uk) offers advice on how to help communities take back ownership of their prized assets.
Although a vibrant and committed community can activate this support it sadly doesn’t change the dynamics of the market.
We have arguably been sleep-walking to this point but are now starting to wake up to the fact that ‘keeping local alive’ benefits everyone. LocoSoco was born from this recognition and believe there are other approaches to levelling the playing field for local shops.
The current drive for sustainabilIty is a big opportunity. Buying what we need and reducing waste should work well for a retailer that manages numerous small transactions rather than 1 or 2 large ones. Refil models for cleaning products or food staples would be one such way to ensure sustainability is commercially attractive. In addition harnessing the power of the web would enable a local shop to sell a wider range of goods to a larger customer base. It needn’t stock them, they can be ordered and collected. The concept is well understood by consumers. That additional in-store footfall will also create incremental revenue.
Local shops and the communities they serve and are waking up to the fact that they can take greater control of their economic environment. LocoSoco is focused on helping them realise that potential and are currently working with a growing number of communities and their local shops to help them become part of a sustainable revolution.
So, get out there and keep it local.