Hawken butcher kelly park

St Mabyn once had no fewer than 14 shops, two petrol stations, a blacksmith’s and an abattoir. Britain’s first supermarket opened in 1964 – and everything changed. The proposed closure of the sole remaining shop and Post Office , announced in March 2018, would have effectively drawn a line under that period of history during which St Mabyn could reasonably be described as a sustainable local community.

Instead, the village would more accurately resemble a dormitory, with an extremely high percentage of elderly residents dependent on private transport. Research by Lloyds Bank suggests that proximity to a good retail outlet contributes 12% of residential property values. So a property which today has a market value of £250,000 could lose £30,000 in value if St Mabyn had been left with no shop.

Village shops are closing at the rate of 400 year. It is simply not possible for small retailers to realise the same economies of scale as supermarkets, or to compete on price or choice. Where village shops can compete, however, is convenience – particularly in relation to fresh foods such as bread, home-baked cakes, milk, vegetables etc.

But a village shop can only offer its “convenience” if it is actually open, and private shopkeepers often report that they have to work such long hours that their salaries are below the minimum wage. 22% of rural shopkeepers say they work more than 70 hours per week. Community shops, by definition, require a different business model – usually involving volunteers prepared to work without wages. If the shop includes a Post Office, the Post Office will pay a salary.

There are several organisations offering help and advice, notably the Plunkett Foundation - https://www.plunkett.co.uk/ According to Plunkett, a community shop typically involves 153 members, 7 directors, 30 volunteers, and 3.3 staff. On average, over the past five years, 17 community shops have opened each year. Plunkett claims that 95% of community shops are successful.

 

The Rural Shop Report from 2017 is instructive: https://www.acs.org.uk/sites/default/files/imported_images/2017/01/ACS-Rural-Shops-Report-2017.pdf

In April 2018, the St Mabyn Parish Council, responding to villagers' concerns as raised at an open meeting, set up a small working party of residents to undertake an outline appraisal of potential options to maintain some sort of retail service for the village. Various locations were investigated, including the Snooker Room adjoining the Village Hall, and eventually the decision was made to base the shop inside a "container" located on the site of "the old dinner hut"..... where formerly a petrol station stood, the building subsequently being used for many years as the canteen for the Primary School,

 

On the 14th August 2018 a Portacabin was delivered to the site and work started immediately on preparing for its conversion to a shop. The event was widely covered in the local media and was supported by the MP for North Cornwall, Scott Mann and local Cornwall councillor Stephen Rushworth.

On the 22nd August the Financial Conduct Authority registered the St Mabyn Community Shop Ltd as a Community Benefit Society, and on the 25th August  the sale of newspapers was transferred for the exiting to village shop to the new enterprise, which did initially use the Snooker Room for this purpose. A small group of volunteers initially opened this facility in the mornings. Two weeks later the St Mabyn Community Shop had opened a bank account and prepared to open its initial share offer.

By 1st October, following a tremendous amount of hard work by a large number of local residents, the shop in its new premises was fully stocked and ready to open  for business. The first 6 months trading showed a very healthy turnover with many local residents making frequent use of the shop. Applying to open the Post Office side of the business has been a long process but we are now hoping to start offering Post Office services from late June in 2019.

It has been a tremendous reflection of the community spirit in the village and the parish of St Mabyn that within a year of the announcement of the original village shop the residents have been able to establish this business, run by the community for the community, and we are all looking forward to seeing the Community Enterprise going from strength to strength and continuing to meet the need of local people.