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August 24, 2011

Community retailers – a growth sector

One in nine shops across Scotland lie empty. In towns and urban areas, vacant shops units can be both depressing on the eye and on the local economy.  But in some remote rural communities, the impact of the village shop closing can be disastrous and even threaten a community’s very existence.  In response, many have chosen to take their local shop under community ownership to safeguard its future. This fast growing movement of community retailers has received a welcome boost

Community retailers – a growth sector

Community-owned shops in Scotland are set to receive a boost with the announcement of a new three-year funding package for their support organisation, the Community Retailing Network (CRN).

The package is made up of £82,100 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, £36,000 from Highlands & Islands Enterprise and £15,000 from The Co-operative Group.

There are currently 21 community-owned shops across Scotland and a furthereight under development. CRN co-ordinator Kirsty MacColl said:

“We are getting new enquiries almost every week. More and more communities see this model as an alternative to losing their local shop and services.

“The local shop is what holds a community together and keeps it going. This funding will allow us to promote community ownership more widely and signpost the practical support that is available for both new and existing shops.”

Success stories in rural Scotland

For further information please contact Kirsty MacColl, tel. 0845 217 8978, email

The Northern Periphery Programme “Retail in Rural Regions”, which has been running since 2009, is now moving towards its conclusion with a Dissemination Seminar in Inverness on 8 September 2011 and a Final Conference in Iceland in November 2011.

A small delegation will attend the Final Conference which will include a spotlight on a number of “Success stories” from the Partner Countries involved – Finland, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Faroe Islands, Norway, Greenland and Scotland.

The “Success Story” from Scotland will be presented by Elaine Newton, who is the Manager of the Uig Community Co-operative, situated at Timsgarry, Uig, Lewis.

Many similar success stories of community-owned stores serving local communities exist in Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles and other parts of rural Scotland.

The Project has included study visits to Partner countries, piloting an innovative training programme using videoconferencing and the developing a “Retail in Rural Regions” model for future support of rural retailers.

The Scottish Partner has been the Community Retailing Network, which provides support and training for community-owned stores throughout Scotland.

A Dissemination Seminar to disseminate the results of the Project will be held in Inverness on Thursday 8 September 2011 and will include presentations on : the Merkur Project in Norway, which provides development support, training and funding for rural retailers in Norway, support offered to rural stores in England & Wales by the Plunkett Foundation and the proposed Highlands & Islands Skillshop Retail Project

All of these activities will demonstrate the benefits that the Project has provided for a number of community-owned rural retailers in Scotland and the lessons learnt from EU Partners facing similar challenges in their own rural areas – supporting the viability and sustainability of rural stores which play an important role in local economic and social development

For further information please contact Kirsty MacColl, tel. 0845 217 8978, email