We love nothing more than to hear about a community getting together and doing it for themselves. This is exactly what’s happening in Wigginton right now in a quest to create a village shop for the first time in years. With the rise of the supermarket, sadly small independent shops started to disappear as they just couldn’t compete with their price or convenience. Wigginton lost its shop with the appearance of Tesco and whilst we all love the convenience of a supermarket it is a great loss for the community and means that there’s no central point for people to meet or anywhere to buy essentials for those who can’t or don’t want to get in a car. The trend is reversing however and there is an increasing interest in local suppliers and producers and a move away from the faceless mass production of supermarkets. Many communities are also getting together to fund and run their own village shops.
For Wigginton it seems now is the time to make it happen for them. They have put together the perfect team of people to supercharge their quest and are on a mission to make the community hub the village cries out for. I was keen to catch up with them and hear a bit more about how it’s going and what the project has involved to date.
How did the idea first come about to create a village shop for Wigginton?
Rebecca Fleckney came up with the idea of a community run shop for Wigginton, having grown up in a nearby village with a thriving shop. Rebecca’s also seen how well community run village shops in The Lee and Wilstone work so well for their communities. When she moved to Wigginton with partner Nick and little baby, she realised a community run village shop would make it much easier to meet people, be a nice place to have a cup of tea with friends as well as avoid trips to Tring.
Who’s been involved in project so far?
Rebecca is a BAFTA award winning TV producer and journalist with lots of experience working with large teams of people to achieve incredible feats. Deborah Simcock is Vice Chair and responsible for marketing. Deborah runs her own business and works for a number of multi-nationals. Simon Crichton has a background in retail including managing all the catering for the 2012 London Olympics. Caroline Burrage has a career in grant application for a global business and has the perfect skills for her role seeking and applying for grants for the shop. Debbie Meech as Co Chair has a background in People Management for FTSE 100 companies, which will help with the recruitment and management of volunteers for the shop. We have a large group of supporters who offer their skills for all types of jobs which are needed for setting up a shop including Planning Consultant, Property Lawyer, Architect, Construction, Supplier Management, Shop Design, Registrar, Secretarial skills, Event Management, IT, Book keeping, Accountancy, the list goes on and on, it is truly amazing how wonderful people have been in offering to help.
What stage is the shop at now and how far do you have to go?
We have had positive feedback from the Dacorum Borough planning office at the pre-application stage and before the end of January the plans will have gone in for final planning approval. The Parish Council have been very supportive as it is their land – the sports field – where the building will be based, so we are finalising the lease details with them as we speak. We are applying for grants and have identified quite a number of funding opportunities which fit well with our plans.
We have written the business plan and share prospectus. We should hear in the next few days that we’ve received a kite mark in recognition of reaching the right UK industry standard for our business plan. This should then enable UK tax paying investors to claim 30% of the amount they invest in the shop, back from HMRC. There is currently a big group of us working on our Public Exhibition and Supplier Festival to be held on the 3rd and 4th February in Wigginton Village hall where we will launch our share offer to local people.
This is a very exciting time as once the share offer is launched at the beginning of February we have given ourselves until the end of February to achieve our target of raising £68,000 from local people.
We believe we can achieve this because before Christmas we asked just 4% of the village if they would pledge some money and we raised £30,000 worth of pledges. Our plan is to break ground in July this year and open the doors this October.
What’s your vision for the shop? What do you see it looking like/ how do you see it working?
The immediate vision is that it’s ‘So much more than just a Shop’ – it’s a shop for the community run by the community which supports local producers, reducing the time and cost from field to fork and helping micro producers in the Chilterns to thrive. It has a cafe space which enables people to meet with friends and make new friends, and a local produce area in prime space so we can promote the wonderful products from across the Chilterns. The remainder of the shop will be local convenience products. We also want to offer services such as dry cleaning, shoe mending, holding packages, plus parcel collection and a local delivery service to those who find it difficult to get out of their home. Our long term vision is to be a one stop shop for the lovely produce across the Chilterns.
I know it’s important to the project to work with local suppliers. Can you tell us a bit about the type of locally sourced products we might find in the shop?
Local suppliers will be the main attraction in the shop. So if you are a local producer do get in touch. We will be offering a once in a generation opportunity to businesses who invest in our shop – they will have their name on the shop wall, for the life of the shop – the most cost effective marketing you will find. Attending our 3rd/4th February event we have Auberge du Chocolat, Chiltern Snacks, Kitchen & Soul, Puddingstone Gin, Tring Brewery, Geoff’s Honey, Harvey and the Hens gifts, Gill Newton’s cakes, Alice Bradshaw’s gluten free biscuits and bars, Sue Hexter’s quiches, Sunnyside Rural Trust’s fresh vegetables and eggs, Jolly Brew tea and coffee, Chilterns Candles and so many more. A lovely mixture for a very different type of shop.
You have an event coming up – can you tell us a bit about that?
We are holding a Public Exhibition, Share Launch and Supplier Festival on Saturday 3rd February between 10 and Midday and Sunday 4th February between 2 and 4pm, in the village hall in Wigginton. The aim is to launch the Shop share offer, show people the plans, ask for their ideas for the shop, help them experience and buy from some of the suppliers, sit and have a coffee, tea and cake and if they want to, they can invest in the shop on the day. People are already asking us – can we invest then? So we know that’s a really important part for our locals.
Is there anything else you need from the community?
Do come along on the 3rd or 4th February and see what we are all about – you’ll be met with a welcoming smile. We have been to many community shops to learn from others and they all do one thing – have a big smile that makes you want to go in and support them, and we intend to be exactly the same.
We’d love to hear from people or businesses who would like to volunteer, invest, help or supply Wigginton shop. To find out more you can get in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our latest news is available via our website: www.wiggintonshop.org.uk or follow our Facebook page “Wigginton Shop”.
Photography by Matthew Bishop Photography