Your shop finally opened as a full-service village store on October 28th 2017. While the extensive and high-quality refurbishments were being carried out by a host of village volunteers and local professionals, we were able to ensure a degree of continuity by supplying newspapers and magazines from the ‘Green Shed’, which had been loaned to us while the shop was being refurbished.
The opening of the shop unfortunately coincided with our principal supplier going into administration and bankruptcy (Palmer & Harvey) – a major blow in the run-up to Christmas. Inevitably the Collective had a steep learning curve during the early days, but we were fortunate to be helped significantly by most of the original staff returning to work.
During the first few months our amazing group of talented volunteers starting learning the skills of serving behind the counter, as well as getting to grips with the complexities of the lottery, newspaper sales and delivery; all tasks that had to be mastered rapidly! Almost all of our original group of volunteers continue to work in the shop, now fully trained, and are a very valuable resource, ably coordinated by Margaret Bamford.
The skills and confidence now demonstrated by the volunteer force owes much to the training by Annie Whitchurch who in January was appointed a member of staff on a short-term contract following the awarding of a grant. Although Annie’s contract has now finished, she continues to help new volunteers in her training role as a volunteer.
The current interim Management Committee were appointed to their positions during the summer of 2017 while the refurbishment took place. Most of those appointed are still in post, and in January we augmented our committee with the appointment of Steve Smith as our Business Development Manager, to whom the Shop Manager Angus Charlton now reports.
The most critical element of running a village community shop is the contribution of our volunteer force, without whom we would be unable to function profitably. Their continued willingness to help each other out and to fill the odd gap in cover is admirable. They do, of course, receive a lot of help from the paid staff when needed. I do hope that the shareholders appreciate the efforts of both the volunteers and the staff and congratulate them whenever you are in the shop!
The effort and commitment required by committee members should not be underestimated, and as time moves on we will inevitably be faced with searching for successors to those currently in post once they believe they have ‘served their time’. There have been times when the management committee have had to spend long hours in the shop, either stocktaking for the whole of one Sunday, or taking in deliveries and shelf-stacking when the regular staff and volunteers are busy, as well as emergency visits to our local suppliers when stocks are running low. Some of the current committee members spend up to 30 hours/week in the shop, helping the Shop Manager assemble stock orders, sorting out the deliveries and solving myriad problems with equipment, and when necessary serving behind the counter.
Our Treasurer, Helen Woods, will be covering in some detail the situation with sales and income up to July of this year, but suffice to say we had a rocky start to the year during the period November- March, as we learnt how to run the shop and cope with the demise of Palmer & Harvey. Since then matters have markedly improved and we should see a breakeven situation develop in 2019. In company reporting terms our financial year ends in July, so next year we may well have our AGM much earlier.
Our first Shop Manager (Auds Stapleton) decided to leave us in March of this year. In May we appointed Angus Charlton as Shop Manager. Angus had worked for some time in the shop, including assembling the papers, and often delivering them, so was familiar with both the staff and a lot of the volunteers; and he has now settled into his challenging role.
Stock purchasing, control and decision making have improved significantly since we started. We continue to try and source locally wherever possible, and if it we could reform some of our more difficult suppliers we would be even happier!
In relation to shareholder membership of the collective, I can report that during our first year, 370 people from Findon and beyond invested in the business, purchasing 488 shares between them. Sadly some of our shareholders died during the year under review but to date their beneficiaries have either retained the shares or declared an intention to gift them back to the collective. Our policy on share issue has been to remain open to new applications, allowing villagers new to the village to take an interest in the Collective.
Regular meetings of both the volunteers and management committee continue to bear fruit in the area of ideas for the future. For example we are keen to expand our use and placement of younger members of the village; we need to know more about satisfaction of customers; continue to have suggestions for stock items that villagers would wish us to stock; and increase our customer base by a leaflet drop throughout the village in 2019.
The future looks brighter with sales and profit steady if not breaking any records; the occupancy of the flat is stable; all of our standard procedures are in place; and the shop has become very much part of the community and a much-valued asset for the village. All those involved in its revival should be proud of their achievement, whether they be volunteers, shareholders, management committee or staff. Now let us see what the next year brings.
Please click here for a copy of the draft accounts