Today, we launched the first edition of our Rural Shop Report, highlighting the essential service that the UK’s more than 19,000 rural shops provide to customers across the UK and the unique challenges that they’re facing in their businesses.

Rural shops are often the only place within several miles where local people can get their groceries and use services like bill payment and the Post Office. These stores are typically on their own in a village or rural area, with no other retail businesses nearby, and can often be the source of the only interaction that customers (especially the elderly and less mobile) have with someone over the course of a day.

While it’s easy to think that a captive audience is a guarantee of success, this isn’t necessarily the case and rural stores are often at a disadvantage to businesses in more urban areas.

It’s easy to think that a captive audience is a guarantee of success, but it isn’t necessarily the case. Rural stores are often at a disadvantage

Forty per cent of rural retailers report that they don’t have access to high-speed broadband in their business, and with mobile 4G coverage in rural areas unacceptable, these businesses are being left behind at a time when more and more software and reporting is moving entirely online, both on the commercial and regulatory side of operating a store.

For rural petrol stations, the burden of business rates is also heavy. Rural stores on forecourts don’t receive the benefit of rural business rate relief due to the high turnover nature of their businesses, and with the revaluations due to hit stores in the spring, those who have invested in their store to improve their offering to customers will be hit even harder.

The purpose of our report launch is to explain these and other challenges faced by rural stores to Government, and we encourage all retailers operating in rural areas to contact their MP and make their voice heard about the issues facing their business.

Rural shops provide a crucial service, and must be supported by Government to ensure their long-term future.