Our aim is simple but broad – to maintain a shop and post office amenity in Weston-on-the-Green.
We’re doing this via a 4 phase approach:
- Raise Awareness – We need to raise awareness within the local community that the shop is being sold and its future is uncertain.
- Options & Scenarios Analysis – We need to look at the potential ways/means to maintain the shop and post office within the village. This includes various options such as private sale to an individual/investors, community ownership or even moving the shop to a new location.
We need to ensure that whichever option we choose is both achievable (raising the money to buy it), viable (profitable) and sustainable in the long term. This will involve the preparation of a detailed business plan.
- Implementation – Putting the plan into action! We will potentially need to raise the funds, apply for grants, purchase the shop and do our best to maintain continuity.
- Looking Forward – At this point, we’ll need to ensure that we have the people and management in place to keep the shop running – and look at ways to grow it, both as a business and as an asset to the community.
We’ll discuss each of these options in more detail in the following sections.
1. Raise Awareness
We need to raise awareness and gather support for our cause. We need to let the village, local community and customers of the shop know what’s happening.
We’ve set up this website, a Facebook page and posted adverts in the Village News and nearby local publications. We’ve created an email address and contact page so people can get in touch with us and share their feedback. We’ve been meeting with various interested parties (stakeholders) such as the Parish Council and the current shop owner and staff.
We’ll be doing more on this over the coming weeks and months.
We’ve also needed to organise ourselves as a committee – establishing our meetings, committee structure, constitution & code of conduct.
We also need to call out for additional support – we need special advisors (e.g. accountants, commercial property), grassroots support and to raise some initial funding to get us going.
2. Options & Scenarios Analysis
We need to work out ‘how’ we’re going to save the shop and post office.
There were a number of different options / ideas discussed at the village meeting on the 22nd February. As a committee, we initially kept an open mind about how this can be achieved but had a number of different options to consider (and this list is by no means exhaustive!):
- Supporting a private person who wants to buy and run the shop and post office.
- Community ownership of the shop and post office – this could be via a personal/business grants and community shares, or via private investors.
- Other options – such as moving the shop and post office to a different location
Whichever option we chose, we think it needed to meet the following criteria:
- Achievability – Can we make it happen (e.g. raise funds, find a new sub-postmaster)?
- Viability – Is there a good business case? Do the numbers/financials make sense?
- Value – Does it offer value to those putting in funds? Does it provide value to the community?
- Support – Does it have the support of the local community? Do they have a say in how it’s run/managed?
- Growth – Does it provide an opportunity to grow as a business and a hub for the community?
During this phase, we’ll be gathering information / doing research on each option. We’ll need to raise some money for legal / commercial property advice as part of our ‘due diligence’ when buying a business.
We’ve done a survey of the village and local community and speak to potential investors/grantors and local businesses.
We’ll try to apply for community grants and funding.
Once we’ve chosen an option, we’ll need a detailed plan in place of how we’ll implement it – which brings us onto Phase 3 – Implementation.
In this stage, we need to successfully implement the chosen route. This will be subject to the route chosen in Phase 2 so we’re not going to provide much detail, but coming up with a detailed plan will be part of Phase 2.
This is where we’d need to gather the money, set up the intended legal structure for the shop and go through the legal process of purchasing the shop.
4. Look Forward
This is going to change according to the option(s) chosen, but we may need to provide ongoing support/governance to shop & post office (particularly if going down the community ownership route), look to grow the shop as a business and also look at how to grow it as a community asset (e.g. increased services, extended opening hours).