Burrington lost its village shop in October 2014 when Denise and Anne Miller decided to retire and closed their shop at London House.
The Parish Council called a public meeting on 29th October 2014 in the Village Hall to hear about how Chittlehamholt went about setting up their shop and for everybody to ask questions and give their views as to what was needed. A second meeting was held on 6th November for those who couldn’t make the 29th. At the end of the open meetings a steering group of volunteers was formed to begin the work of creating a new Community Shop within the village. Following the experience of Chittlehamholt and with assistance from the Plunkett Foundation the steering group set about preparing a questionnaire to go to every household in Burrington. The results showed that there was definitely a need for a shop and that the majority would use a shop for at least some of their regular shopping. As a result, it was decided that a new, community run, shop would be viable. Hence, work began on setting up a new shop.
The committee generated a business plan and, after joining the Plunkett Foundation, set up a limited company. We are now a “Community Business Society”, registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (no. 7123)
We visited several Community Shops in the area to see what makes them successful and what to avoid. We also looked at various locations that had been suggested to us as possible places that we could have a shop – initially the Parish Hall appeared to offer the most appropriate initial solution to our needs, and that after opening we could pursue the planning of a more permanent building near the Methodist Chapel. We were then offered space within Pickards Country Store. The main benefit of this offer was that we would not need to find volunteers to staff the shop as all sales could pass through Pickards’ till. This was backed up by their accounting system to provide detailed reports on stock. This offer was accepted and we opened this shop for business on 23rd September 2015.
In 2016, due to a lack of space we were offered a larger area within Pickards and this move was completed in the Spring of 2016.
Work towards permanent, independent premises was still on-going. Then, in late 2016, we began discussions with Pickards regarding a much larger space. Eventually, Pickards decided to move to an adjacent building that was 3 times the size of their existing shop. We moved into the larger building, with 2˝ times the space we had previously. This allowed us to vastly increase the range of goods and to have much more of our products within the shop, rather than a store room.
There have regularly been concerns about the service provided by the mobile Post Office. It is still hoped that one day a Post Office might open within the shop, but until now it has not proven to be a practical proposition.
Will the Community Shop ever move to its own premises? Maybe. But the arrangement with Pickards works very well and provides a lot of practical benefits. Not least is the fact that to operate separately we would need around 20 volunteers to staff the shop, or have to employ its own full time staff. Neither would seem practical at present. But never say never.
March 2020 changed the situation beyond any expectations. The first Covid-19 lockdown meant that everybody was limited as to where they could travel. Our takings almost doubled overnight with vastly increased sales of bread, milk and fruit & vegetables. The shop responded by increasing its ranges of locally produced products that has helped the shop to retain the increased business. During that time, we also worked with a local butcher to deliver orders to the shop. Our sales have remained much higher than before the pandemic and we are doing our best to keep competitive by reducing the prices on a wide range of products. Our aim is to remain the supplier of choice for the village.
To date the shop is still taking far more than 50% more than pre-pandemic and continuing to search out more local suppliers.
We really need additional help to keep the shop running – nobody need offer more than 1-2 hours a week
Page updated 18 September 2021