Rural shops

Explains why they are important, help retaining local shops, can your community take it over, and what support is available.

Why are our rural shops important?

Rural shops are often described as the heart of the community where people meet exchanging news, maintaining informal friendship and support networks whilst making small every day purchases. They host a variety of services and are commonly a key information point for residents.

Changes in individual lifestyles such as internet shopping, greater car ownership, home delivery services combined with competition from supermarket chains mean that many small rural shops are finding it increasingly difficult to survive. Their loss could result in further isolation and the loss of key services to those residents living in rural communities who are not able to travel or confident about using technology.

Other potential effects are on health and well being. For example the daily routine of walking to the shop for the newspaper and having a chat aids both physical and mental well-being.

Rural shops often include home accommodation for the owner and when individuals decide to retire or leave the business they tend to be either:

  • sold as a business in order to provide money to fund retirement

  • converted into living accommodation.

What can be done to help retain local shops?

Making use of your local shop to purchase goods and services is the best way for individuals to help retain them in the community. Local shops are private small businesses that rely on sales in order to create an income for the owner. Individual customers benefit from a local retail outlet and save money in travel costs by using the local shop.

Local shops have planning permission as retail spaces and when they close planning permission must be sought for any change of usage. A local planning policy can help to retain local shops and services in rural communities.

The Localism Act 2011 introduced some measures which can help retain local shops. The act allows communities to nominate land or buildings that they feel are important as community assets.  If the nomination is accepted, the community will be given time to come up with a bid for the asset if it comes up for sale.

For further information visit the assets of community value page.

Could my community take over the local shop?

Yes, a number of communities across the country have successfully taken over their local shop when existing owners have closed or plan to close the business.

There are a variety of different ways in which the community can take over the local shops including a community buy out of an existing shops premises or developing a shop at another location. In order to achieve this, a group of volunteers need to come together and form a legal structure which is able to trade. There are a number of different legal structures that can be used some involve volunteers running the day to day activity and others involve taking on tenants to run the shop.

If you are interested in exploring the possibility of community ownership or management of a local shop, the plunkett foundation website offers further support.

The Plunkett Foundation - Community shops support (external website)

What support is available to my local shop?

The council's business services team has a number of advisers who are able to offer support and advice to businesses across the East Riding. Further information is available on the business advice page.

The national association of small retailers can provide support and advice to rural shops who wish to consider diversifying their businesses.

Yorkshire passion is a free half-day service quality training programme designed for any business or individuals who have contact with customers or visitors in the East Riding.

For further information and to find out the dates of future courses please see the Yorkshire passion website. You will need to register an account with the website in order to book a course.

Yorkshire passion - courses (external website)

Rural shops may also wish to consider becoming members of the local food network in the East Riding. For more information about the work of the network and the benefits of using local produce, please see the local food network page.

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