Alun's village shop is the cornerstone of the community
Location: South Gloucestershire
Hours: 8:30am-6pm Mon-Fri, 8:30am-2:30pm Sat, closed Sun
Staff: 80 volunteers
Size: 300sq ft
Trading since: March 2009
Getting the best from your staff requires incentives, discipline and inspiration, but directing a team of volunteers towards success needs a completely different approach.
That was the situation retired consultant Alun Evans was in when, in 2007, he joined a local committee that was planning to open a community shop to assist the village’s ageing population.
After testing the concept with a monthly farmer’s market that would sell £1,500 of stock on a Saturday morning, the team moved to a church-owned house and converted it into a 300sq ft store that attracts 1,000 customers a month.
“I believe that business should have a positive effect. I’ve had some big moments in my career, but it’s so fulfilling to see the effect we have on the community,” he says.
The main cost for the store is the rent. It is run by 80 volunteers who take care of the shop, cut the grass and update social media. “Our volunteers range from younger people doing it to build their confidence to older ones who do it to socialise.”
Staff are free to take on as much or as little responsibility as they want. Every half day, a duty manager is in charge, with rotas completed two weeks in advance. “We have very clear guidelines written down so that we can delegate all sorts of tasks,” explains Alun.
“We have one person responsible for the freezer, one who does the confectionery and so on. Clear communication is key otherwise there would be chaos.”
The shop makes sure it keeps its prices keen and regularly checks the supermarkets to stay competitive. It runs at a 6% net profit and publishes its books publicly so customers can see how much profit it makes.
The shop’s profits go back into the community and, in the past eight years, it has donated £50,000 to local causes like the Scouts, village hall and local school.
The team’s work for the community led to the store scooping a Rural Oscar from the Plunkett Foundation and Daily Telegraph, as well as making it into the Independent Achievers Academy’s Top 100 stores in 2015.
“We have to run this as a profitable store first and foremost, but we don’t add extra margin to our products and make more than we need to. We’re there for the community,” says Alun.
Getting involved in local causes means the committee has built a wide range of contacts that can help with the shop. Last year, they were approached by a BBC producer from the village, who wanted to create a play about a local blind man whose guide dog had won an award. The play took place in the shop, watched by a dozen people, and was carried on in the school across the road.
With the store’s lease coming up for renewal in a year’s time, the next few months are crucial for the committee. Alun is looking at raising community shares and getting investors on board that will secure the shop for the long term, as well as complete necessary repairs on the building.
He says: “Some people here really would struggle without this store and the village wouldn’t be as well looked after without the team here.”
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