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Community business sector continued to grow in 2020 despite pandemic

Melanie May | 21 October 2021 | News

Bar staff at a pub picking up up drinks

Community owned shops and pubs have continued to grow and thrive despite the difficulties of the pandemic, according to two new reports from the Plunkett Foundation.

The figures show that the community business sector continued to grow throughout 2020, despite several lockdowns, restrictions and the economic uncertainty of Covid-19. By the end of 2020 there were 139 community pubs trading across the UK – with 13 new openings and a sector growth of 11%.

Community shops saw 13 new openings and a sector growth of 3%, bringing the total to 392 community-owned and run shops.

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£2.7 million was raised through 2,616 community shares by the 13 community pubs that opened last year, while the 13 community shops that also opened in 2020 raised £328,055 through 1,800 new members.

Confidence levels are also high. Despite a difficult trading year, 84% of community pubs are confident about the coming months. 98% of those surveyed based their confidence on being community-owned referencing an unparalleled loyal local customer base, dedicated support from volunteers and being in tune with their community’s needs.

Save Kirkoswald Shop Campaigners - Plunkett Foundation
Save Kirkoswald Shop Campaigners – Plunkett Foundation

The findings are published in The Better Form of Business reports by the Plunkett Foundation, and funded by Power to Change. This year’s reports are available by request.

Across the UK community owned pubs and shops responded swiftly to the needs of the people they serve. They provided even more services than before, including: home deliveries; takeaways; online clubs; developing accommodation; sourcing food from local producers and helping the most vulnerable in their communities – the elderly, those living alone, self-isolating, on low incomes or living in isolated locations. Significantly 84% of community shops saw an increase in trade in 2020.

James Alcock, Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation, said:

“The resilience of community-owned shops and pubs is truly remarkable. These businesses and the courageous communities that run them have proved themselves time and time again to be innovative, flexible and truly seeking to reflect the needs of the people they serve.

 

“They have supported the most vulnerable in their communities throughout the pandemic and in response those communities are supporting them. With over 800 community businesses across the UK and 500 groups currently seeking to establish community-owned businesses – they not only support their local community but play a key role in regional and national recovery from the pandemic.”

Community-owned shops provide a wide range of services, many including cafes, post offices and stocking locally produced goods. Since the pandemic they have increased their goods from local producers and introduced new click-collect and delivery services. Community pubs faced many challenges, like the rest of the hospitality sector, but many have diversified starting takeaway schemes, delivery services, developing their outside spaces and some offering new shops within the pubs.

John Dawson, Head of Social Investment at Power to Change:

“Like all businesses, community businesses have felt the financial impacts of Covid-19. But unlike many businesses, they’ve also been working with some of the most vulnerable in their communities throughout the crisis and the need for their services has increased.

 

“The Better form of Business reports demonstrates a sector that has not only adapted to the changing landscape and remained resilient, but grown – despite the challenges they faced.”

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