The community shop results in lower transport costs for older adults as they don’t have to travel, this rural area is not served by public transport.
The small seaside village of Courtmacsherry, located in a rural West Cork, 54km from Cork City, and 6.4km from the next village of Timoleague, has a population of less than 500 people and this doubles during the summer months due to tourism. The last remaining convenience shop in Courtmacsherry closed in August 2015 due to the owner retiring. To help combat the decline in services in their community and to address the problem of rural isolation and unemployment, a community shop was proposed. A survey was conducted amongst the residents of the village, with 94% indicating they would support a community shop and many indicating they were willing to volunteer to work in the shop. Opened in 2016, a community co-operative convenience shop owned by shareholders and run by local volunteers. Second of its kind in Ireland, serving the community and visitors and its open all year round. The shop is overseen by a board of management, elected by shareholders and 90% of the board is over 50. The shop created both direct and indirect (it allows local suppliers an outlet to showcase and sell their local produce who are both part of and supplying the silver economy) employment and supports local cottage enterprises and SMEs. The shop also provides exhibition space for local artists. Since the community shop opened, two public houses reopened and hotel now opens at weekends during the winter months.
Funds were raised by selling shares (€34,000) to 274 shareholders including locals, tourists and international shareholders, which covered the cost of fitting a suitable rented premise (old post office). The shop is resourced by 45 retired volunteers and received €9,400 from the FLAG project.
Evidence of success
The Community Shop is operating all year round and open 7 days a week.
It supports employment and micro enterprises operating in the Silver economy to supply and sell chutneys, jams, breads, cakes and crafts. The profitable business is currently advertising a paid position, agreed a 7-year lease on the premise, extended the services offered to include a book shop, WIFI, tourist information and increased the range of products offered by local suppliers.
Management had no retail experience and this impacted the set up and running of the shop. They lost volunteers due to no air conditioning, the cash till they had at the outset but following the installation of the EPOS system, all stock is barcoded and can be easily monitored.
Potential for learning or transfer
Historically, Courtmacsherry had a tradition in commerce with its own boat builders, railway station, active port, music hall, cinema, petrol station, butcher and shops selling local produce. The community shop concept can be easily transferable to other rural communities across the European Union with appropriate policies in place, such as rural development and enterprise development supporting micro enterprises and SMEs. Its success is based on initial research and gaining inclusive and community involvement. Any profits generated by the community shop is invested back into the community (sailing club, school, playground and youth club have benefited from these donations). Initiatives like this are transferable with the support of set-up funding from local authorities or public funded agencies. Courtmacsherry has recently received approval to be included on the Wild Atlantic Way and the existence of the Community shop has been instrumental in securing this approval.
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