Involving Local Shops and Traders in Your Community
A key amenity in most successful communities is local shops and services such as post offices and pubs. Not only do they create local employment they serve everyone in the neighbourhood. They are especially valuable for the elderly and others who may not be able to travel to larger shopping centres.
Valuable local resourceAs well as offering a service they help a community to feel lived in and often act as places where neighbours can meet each other to chat or relax. For some people shopkeepers and traders may also be the only people they interact with in a day, and so they may offer a vital lifeline to some of the most vulnerable members of society. Often shops and services can act to define a community and their absence can be keenly felt and seen as a sign of decline.
As they already play such a vital role it makes sense to appreciate the resources they offer and involve your local shops in the community. Whether you are involved with a community group, residents association or amenity group consider inviting local traders to get involved.
Local Traders AssociationFor example you could have a trading representative on the committee who will liaise with other shopkeepers in the area to canvas support for your project. Depending on the size of your neighbourhood there may be a local Traders Association which you can approach. If there isn’t then local shopkeepers may consider setting one up to collaborate together to promote business and amenities in their local area. There may well be common issues experienced by both businesses and residents of an area such as parking problems, bus routes or vandalism where uniting will add weight to tackling the issue.
Sponsorship and FundraisingMake the most of shops’ customer base by placing promotional materials such as posters in their stores. Consider inviting them to sponsor your project, if appropriate, in return for displaying their logo. This can be a win-win situation for both parties.
If they aren’t in a position to provide funding they may be able to offer goods or services instead. For example your local print shop could assist in creating publicity materials such as flyers or your local beautician could offer treatments as the prize in a fundraising raffle. Larger traders may be able to offer staff time and skills such as marketing or accounting to support your group or may be able to offer staff as volunteers to help out in the local community, for example by helping to create a community garden.
Community-Owned ShopsIt is even possible to take things a stage further with a community-owned shop. People have taken action, especially in rural communities, to either set up a communal enterprise or take over a going concern when it is under threat of closure. For example there are an estimated 160 community-owned village shops in England alone. These often provide a focal point for an area and can help in its regeneration or survival as a thriving neighbourhood.
Everyone in the community who chooses to buy in, holds a stake in the business and everyone benefits from the amenity it provides. This also offers a valuable experience for neighbours to come together as a team to create something as well as the opportunity to share existing skills or acquire new ones such as financial management or team leadership.