Sector growth and soaring confidence for community pubs and shops

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Community pubs and shops demonstrate soaring confidence and sector growth despite the pandemic.
The Plunkett Foundation releases two major reports revealing that the number of community-owned businesses continued to grow and thrive amidst declining sectors and the severe trading difficulties of the pandemic.
New 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 demonstrate the same resilience with 13 new openings and a sector growth of 3% and bringing the total to 392 community-owned and run shops.

£2.7 million was raised through community shares by the 13 newly opened community pubs that opened last year. The 13 community shops that also opened in 2020 raised £328,055 in community shares.

Additionally, confidence levels are extremely 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.

The findings are published in The Better Form of Business reports produced by the Plunkett Foundation – a charity which supports predominantly rural communities across the UK to tackle the issues they face through community business. The reports were funded by Power to Change, an independent trust supporting community businesses in England.

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 were already providing 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, said: “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 report demonstrates a sector that has not only adapted to the changing landscape and remained resilient, but grown – despite the challenges they faced.”

Key findings of the reports:

Community Pubs – A Better Form of Business 2021

  • Community pub sector grew by 11% with 13 new pubs opening during the year
  • 139 community pubs in total were trading across the UK at the end of 2020
  • £2.7 million was raised from 2,616 community shareholders by 13 newly opening community pubs

Community Shops – A Better Form of Business 2021

  • 13 new community shops opened in 2020 an increase of 3%
  • 392 community shops were trading in the UK by the end of the year
  • £328,055 was raised in share capital from 1,800 new members by 11 newly opening shops in 2020

An estimated £7.5m in community shares has been raised from shops and £27m for pubs to the end of 2020. The survival rate of pubs and shops remains extremely high, 96% and 92.6% respectively.