Monday, 10 March 2014 14:16

Support 'worth £3.4m to village shops'

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Support 'worth £3.4m to village shops'

RURAL retailers saw turnover increase by almost 10% following a government-backed support project for village shops.

The Store is the Core scheme provided one-to-one coaching, advisory support and training seminars more than 200 village and community retailers across south-west England.

Participating retailers saw turnover boosted by 9.4% on average – an overall increase of about £3.4m before the three-year programme ended in December 2013.

The initiative was funded through Defra and Brussels, and managed by Community First, the rural community council for Wiltshire.

Some 90% of participants found the support valuable or extremely valuable, according to an evaluation report completed by F3 Consultants.

Of the shops supported, some 85% were the only remaining shop in their village and over two thirds hosted a Post Office, said the report.

Participating shops had a combined turnover of well over £35m, supporting approximately 300 full-time staff and 600 part-time jobs in their rural areas.

The report also identified a changing trading environment for shops, with professional management becoming ever more necessary.

“National and local government may need to recognise the value of village shops not just to the local economy, but as a key part of the social fabric of rural life,” it said.

“As such, preferential conditions in relation to business rates, tax relief, VAT, and rural transport may need to be created.”

Plans to restructure the Post Office network could have a very negative effect on shop viability and survival, the report added.

Project manager Tim Coomer said: “Store is the Core has been a great success, we have worked with a great many retailers and have seen real improvements in the majority of these businesses.

“We would love to see the programme continue and support many more village retailers across the country and welcome conversations with funders, local authorities and enterprise partnerships.

“In the meantime we hope our online resources will help retailers for many years to come.

“We are convinced that by helping a retailer to be more successful, access to vital services is maintained and helps ensure vibrant and sustainable rural communities.”

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