NEWS FROM BRENT KNOLL

SOMERSET’S “EMERGENCY SHOP” CUSTOMERS FLEX THEIR MUSCLES

ONLINE & PAPER SURVEY REVEALS THEIR VIEWS

Customers of the “Emergency Shop” in Brent Knoll have responded to a survey, revealing their views on what should change.

More than half (60%) confirmed that they receive good service from the volunteers running the community shop, while 32% suggest that changes should be made.

Top of the list of the changes requested was an extension of opening hours.

“We have consulted with our volunteers and responded to that request for extra hours”, said David Sturgess, a member of the Steering Group for Brent Knoll’s community shop venture.

“We have now expanded opening hours from 9am to 12 noon on every week day, with Saturdays being open from 9am to 12 noon and then 2pm to 4.30pm”, said Mr Sturgess.

The Brent Knoll team has also initiated a speciality “Coffee-Stop” every Saturday morning, with a professional barista serving Italian coffees – as well as Miles Teas and hot chocolate.

While the Brent Knoll shop has a huge following on social media (NextDoor and a Facebook group), the survey also revealed the need for more advertising.

“We shall now buy adverts in the Brent Knoll News”, said Mr Sturgess.

More than half of the survey respondents (53%) urged the Brent Knoll shop to stock the best and the most local produce, with just 3% suggesting that they stock the cheapest.

“It’s been fascinating to us volunteers, who have no experience of running a shop, that we have had stocks of flour when local supermarkets were struggling to find flour – and that many of our fresh local produce is priced cheaper than our local supermarkets”, Mr Sturgess commented.

The customer survey also revealed concerns about social-distancing, with too many volunteers and customers in the shop on some occasions..

“We have taken great efforts to embrace the Covid-19 rules, but it is crucial that we ensure that every customer – and every volunteer – feels entirely safe”, said Mr Sturgess.  “We shall use this feedback to review our procedures”, he added.

END

FURTHER INFORMATION:

David Sturgess:  -7768-078656





NEWS FROM BRENT KNOLL

PLEASE SUPPORT BRENT KNOLL’S
“EMERGENCY SHOP”

SOMERSET’S “EMERGENCY SHOP” GOES NATIONAL!

BBC RADIO 4 VISITS BRENT KNOLL FOR “THE WORLD TONIGHT”

Customers and volunteers at Brent Knoll’s “Emergency Shop” were interviewed on Monday (13th July) by a reporter from BBC Radio 4’s “The World Tonight” program for a feature on communities coping with Covid-19.

The BBC was responding to a national report by the Plunkett Foundation, which has supported more than 300 village community shops, and the Co-Op:  Their “Ripple Effect” report highlights the Brent Knoll “Emergency Shop” as a case-study.

BBC reporter, Paul Moss spent almost three hours interviewing volunteers and customers at Brent Knoll’s “Emergency Shop” to probe why and how a “Community shop” can thrive after a commercial shop closed in the village.

“The answer is simple”, said David Sturgess, a member of the shop venture’s Steering Group.

“As a community shop, we have more than 30 unpaid volunteers who devote their time to helping run the shop.  We do need to make a profit to remain viable, but we do not need to make a living from that profit”, he explained.

“We have also had superb support from our volunteers, from our community customers, from our Parish Council, from the owner of the shop premises, and from the Plunkett Foundation”, said Mr Sturgess.

The latest community consultation survey has resulted in the Brent Knoll “Emergency Shop” extending its opening hours (9am to 12 noon from Monday to Friday, and special hours for Saturdays:  “coffee-stop” and shop open from 9am to 12 noon – then shop re-open from 2 to 4.30pm).

“We’re now making progress towards our aim of delivering a permanent Community Shop, with the potential to re-open a Post Office”, said Mr Sturgess.

“While lockdown restrictions are eased, we must keep our ‘Emergency Shop’ under regular review, but our preference is to keep it trading until we can secure that permanent Community Shop”, he added.

END

FURTHER INFORMATION:

  • David Sturgess:  01278-760621 or 07768-078656
  • Plunkett & Co-op “Ripple Effect” Report: Click here



A PLAN TO RETAIN OUR VILLAGE SHOP

Brent Knoll is in imminent danger of losing its village shop.  Our Post Office has already ceased operations (but could be revived).

The Plunkett Foundation has helped about 300 other villages to retain their village shops by converting them into Community Shops.  96% of the community shops they have helped to create over the past 25 years are still trading successfully.

Caroline Chennells, the current owner of the village shop, has been very clear – and hugely helpful.

She has explained that current trading levels are commercially unviable, and that she will have to close the shop on Sunday 1st March.

Caroline is being hugely supportive of the possibility for the shop to be taken over, and run, by the village as a Community Shop under the aegis of the Plunkett Foundation.

Many people in Brent Knoll have lamented the loss of the Post Office:  but without the village shop, there is no hope of restoring the Post Office.

The proposal to rescue the village shop as a community venture is also the sole hope of restoring the Post Office in Brent Knoll.

WHAT’S THE PLAN?

A number of villagers shared a wish to retain our shop and try to restore our Post Office.  They did this through conversations on the NextDoor social media platform and at an informal meeting in the village hall.

As a result, four people (John Mathews, Caroline, Bob Filmer and David Sturgess) are working as an initial “steering group” to explore how those objectives can be met.

The plan is very simple:

  • Secure a majority of villagers’ support for the idea of a Community Shop;
  • Appoint a salaried manager (who could also, potentially, run the Post Office);
  • Recruit sufficient volunteers to staff the shop (including extra services – like home deliveries);
  • Attract the skills of professionals (eg, accountants and lawyers) to join the Steering Group and help create the new community business;
  • Inspire sufficient people to invest as voting shareholder-members to have a vote on the future of the shop.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

If we can secure a majority of local people’s support for the proposal, it means that we can take over the running of the shop.

If we retain the shop, then we sustain the potential to re-open the Post Office.

Unlike other villages, we do not have a huge financial target.  Caroline is offering to rent the shop for £3,750 pa, so we just need to raise £50,000 of working capital to ensure the business for six months, with the aim of being fully viable within a year.

If we can achieve three things, that target will be met:

  • A majority of local people supporting the plan;
  • Sufficient volunteers to staff the shop;
  • Sufficient investors becoming “voting members” by buying shares in the community business.

HOW WOULD THAT WORK?

In truth, it will not work if we do not secure sufficient support.

We need a majority of our local residents (Brent Knoll and East Brent) to declare their support for the concept of a Community Shop in order to secure the help of the Plunkett Foundation (and access to available grant funding).

We also need that level of support for a Community Shop to have any hope of restoring our Post Office.

There is also the crucial issue of being customers. If every home in Brent Knoll spent just £7 per week in the shop, the annual turnover would be £175,000 – more than enough to guarantee viability for the shop.

And we need to secure sufficient volunteers to help staff the shop and its services (eg, home deliveries).  That means getting 20+ people prepared to spend some hours every week in staffing the shop or providing home-deliveries in the village.

AND it means getting sufficient people prepared to invest as shareholding “members”, who have a vote on how the shop progresses.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Let’s be honest.

We are in this situation because not enough of us have been using our village shop to sustain its business.  If we are to save it, that must change.

For most of us, the proximity of Tesco, Aldi, and Asda means that we have no problem in sourcing our shopping.

But that is NOT the case for many in our community, who cannot drive and have no access to a bus service.

We all recognise the social value of our village shop, but have not done enough shopping there to make it a sustainable business.

Meanwhile, there are many in our village who rely upon that shop because they cannot drive and have no access to a bus service. We owe it to them to keep our village shop, which could also become a social hub for volunteers and a business opportunity for shareholders.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Please take a few moments to complete the initial survey questionnaire, designed to assess whether there is enough support to progress the idea of saving our village shop as a Community Shop.

More than 600 copies of the questionnaire will be delivered with the “Local Reach” magazine to homes in Brent Knoll and East Brent.  Copies of that questionnaire will also be available from the village shop, the ‘phone box, the Fox & Goose, the village school, and the Red Cow.

You can also complete that questionnaire online by clicking on:


https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScbPsM-BGvGBCOpjzbmIT03ZOOmCFgLSB-42EL4MbrKdt6Hkw/viewform

The deadline for completed questionnaires is Saturday 7th March.  Please drop your paper questionnaires in the collection boxes in:

  • The village shop (mornings only until closure on 1st March)
  • The ‘Phone Box outside the village shop;
  • The Fox & Goose
  • The Village School
  • The Red Cow

If there is a majority in favour of this plan, there is every hope of reviving our village shop – and the potential for restoring our Post Office.  Without that majority, we just have to accept the loss of both our shop and our Post Office.

Meanwhile, if you need further information, please contact one of the following:

Caroline Chennells:  cheesechen@hotmail.com
John Mathews:  john@mathewsandco.co.uk
David Sturgess:  david.sturgess@tiscali.co.uk


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