The 2019 Rural Shop Report reveals that rural convenience stores provide flexible jobs for almost 140,000 people, have invested over £271m in improving their businesses, and are providing a wider range of services despite being hampered by slower than average broadband speeds and unreliable mobile connectivity.
The importance of rural convenience stores is also highlighted in new research for this year’s report which shows one in five people living in rural areas would have to travel more than five miles to get essential groceries if their local convenience store was not there.
The 2019 Rural Shop Report also explores the value of services to rural customers. The two services that rural people value the most in their local shop are the Post Office, provided by 34% of rural shops, and access to a cash machine, provided on a free to use basis by 44% of rural shops. For young people aged 18-24 in rural areas, access to a cash machine was the most valuable service available in their local shop, enforcing the importance and continued relevance of cash as a method of payment both in stores and in the wider community.
I know that these trends ring true locally and is why I have been pushing the Post Office to look at how they can adapt their model and further support subpostmasters in rural areas. I am delighted that Old Newton has recently seen its Post Office re-open and it is not lost on me that it is located in a convenience store.
Recently I had the pleasure of opening the shop and post office in Felsham that is now being run by community volunteers, congratulating them on their hard work in getting the project to fruition. This venture allows residents to buy shares for £10 each, giving them a say in how it operates. A shop run by the community, for the community will be well placed to respond to the needs of local residents.
With the change we are seeing in technology, rural shops are becoming hubs rather than simply being somewhere to go and get the groceries. I am incredibly supportive of the work they do and will always work with them to ensure that they can provide services we all rely on.
The full Rural Shop Report is available here: http://bit.ly/RuralShopReport19