Social supermarket community

By | Business
The members-only shops aim to offer those on income support decreased prices on food. credit@en.wikipedia.org

In a bid to resolve food shortage in the UK, a national rollout of social supermarkets and community shops, are being introduced that aim to offer 70 percent discounts on surplus food to those in need of it the most, has started. The first Community Shop opened in December in South Norwood in south London, and there are more stores in the pipeline, after a successful pilot in Goldthorpe, Barnsley.

John Marren, chairman of Company Shop Group Community Shops, who are behind the project, said, “We are resolving the challenges of surplus food, whilst giving real social purpose. We are offering high-quality reduced-cost food to people experiencing challenging times, providing them with the chance to take up support services because they are motivated to do better”.

Some experts have seen this as being another challenge to the big supermarkets, which are facing competition from discounters Aldi and Lidl, However the initiative is supported by Aldi, Morrisons, Asda and Tesco and is targeted at the people who may need it rather than consumers with the luxury of choice. Gavin Chappell, Asda’s VP of supply chain and ecommerce, said, “We are really committed to reducing both food waste and food poverty in this country, and Community Shop is a way of doing that. However, this is also about creating new customers as they come out of the Community Shop process and go back in to mainstream retailing”.

The members-only shops aim to offer those on income support decreased prices on food which might have gone to surplus from those supermarkets as well as Marks and Spencer, The Co-operative and Ocado. People are going to be assessed for membership based on their location, whether they receive benefits and if they have a desire to make positive changes. Interestingly, excess money raised is being put into a development programme to help members with getting jobs, cooking and other life skills.

Tristram Stuart, founder of the environmental campaign organisation Feedback, said: “Like those behind Community Shop, I have seen the huge amounts of food surplus every single day in Britain. We must all do more if we are to change our attitude. The Community Shop project is leading by example by attempting to resolve the challenge of surplus food by giving it social purpose”.

It aims to include everything from meat and vegetables to Innocent Smoothies and Muller Rice. Deals include a Morrisons pasta sauce, reduced from £1.15 to 29p and chickens from Ocado, down from £5.80 to £1.60. The scheme is backed by London mayor, Boris Johnson, who said, “it is a sterling example of social enterprise and private organisations working together to create positive outcomes”. A similar store opened in Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire, in December last year, and there are plans to open 20 more stores across the country after Community Shop says the scheme has been a great success.

Mark Game, managing director of Company Shop, said, “We chose London for our first full-scale store in the national expansion because there’s a high density of population. Our ideal is to expand to 20 shops in the next couple of years. We’ve invested significantly to open this. The key to expanding is to find councils that might help us liaise and engage with support services that are already in the area. The council has found the shop a building and agreed a discounted rent rate. Also [to] provide appropriate referrals for membership”.

Community shops already exist in Belgium, Luxemburg, Austria, Romania and Greece. Also, in most cases the food is surplus food donated by different stakeholders such as farmers, processing industry and retail companies.

How might social supermarkets bring more people into mainstream retailing?

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