Fast forward two years, the community’s investment has risen to £80,000 – made up from community shares bought for as little as £20. Charles says: “The way that our store works is that everyone can buy a share for £20, but if you buy multiple shares you still only get one vote – people are at different stages and we didn’t want to feel that we were asking for an amount that people couldn’t afford. But we did have a number of investments that were in the thousands of pounds.”
Added to this, a £57,000 EU grant and another £10,000 from The National Lottery has secured the store’s future. The 500sq ft wooden-pannelled store now sits in the back garden of a Creaton resident who charges £1 a year rent.
Yet, while financial security is closer at hand, the design of the store reflects the long-term need for flexibility in its location. “Luckily, one of our com-mittee members is a property developer and had already built an office using structural integrated panels,” adds Charles. “After some thought, we decided to go with it. It is very efficient, looks attractive and is modular, which means we can move it. Yes, it is costlier than a portacabin, but it definitely adds to the customer and staff experience.”
The store is able to stay open seven days a week thanks to the 30 volunteers and three members of staff that have been recruited. However, as time goes on, they are working out how to meet the needs of their new base.
“The community is our main source of trade, but we do get a lot of passing trade,” says Charles. “Although our community can tell us what they want, the passing trade wants something different, usually an on-the-go offering.
“This is why our biggest challenge right now is maintaining our stock. It is fantastic that we are emptying our shelves, but we need to adapt to changing consumer habits. Usually,we go off with a shopping list to our wholesaler once a week, but we have had to start going more regularly because we don’t have the storage.
“We are gradually squeezing some lines down and introducing new ones, but we are really cautious of not running before we can walk.”
Charles now says his proudest moment so far has been store’s grand opening – an event that brought together local businesses, residents, music and food: “Although I was naïve about how much of a learning curve this would be, we have brought back the social hub of the community which we were at threat of losing.”