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July 10, 2009

Uig community shop – the future of remote rural retail

Six years ago, the village shop in this remote scattered community on Lewis was put up for sale. Fearing they were about to lose this vital facility, the community took the plunge and bought the business. In a relatively short space of time, the community have redeveloped the shop, doubling the floor space and diversifying the range of services on offer

A’ Bhuth, Uig Community Shop

A’ Bhuth is a real community shop, owned by Uig Development Trust and managed by a committee of volunteers, Uig Community Cooperative Ltd.

When the previous private owners decided to sell the shop in 2003, a huge 90% of the people of Uig supported the community purchase.

Since re-opening in March 2004, a 150m2 extension has been added to the building (funded by the Big Lottery, Scottish Executive RSPA, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, HIE and bank borrowing), increasing the range of goods and services that A’ Bhuth can offer to the community.

Unlike many rural shops, A’ Bhuth is a great size and carries a fantastic range of goods, which means locals and visitors can obtain all their groceries and much more without having to go outside the community.

The shop’s many vital services now include Timsgarry Post Office, a free cash machine, hot drinks and seating area, pay phone, a fully accessible Public Toilet, meeting room and commercial launderette.

Also opening very soon will be the first 24hr fuel pump with card payment terminal on the Isle of Lewis.

European project to aid rural shops in Scotland

A new trans-national project has been launched to aid the survival and growth of rural shops in Scotland and other North European countries.

The project, ‘Retail in Rural Regions’, will run over three years to the end of 2011, and is primarily funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Northern Periphery Programme (NPP). The lead organisation in Scotland is the Community Retailing Network (CRN), which has secured match funding from Consumer Focus Scotland.

As a first stage the Community Retailing Network is mapping the needs of rural retailers in the Highlands & Islands. This information will then be used to create tailor made support and training programmes.

The co-operative nature of the project will allow the CRN to utilise expertise from across the academic, public, private and social enterprise sectors in Scotland and the other North European countries involved.

A particular focus will be on the potential for multi-functional stores providing a range of services in addition to groceries such as the one at Uig.

By sharing best practice, the intention is to develop new solutions in line with the NPP’s aim of “innovatively investing in Europe’s Northern Periphery for a sustainable and prosperous future”.

Further information from Kirsty MacColl, Community Retailing Network, tel. 0845 217 8978, email