WINSHAM SHOP-The transition from private to community ownership.                            
Part 2-The first ten years

In 2012 Winsham Shop carries over three thousand items of merchandise and offers many services
The first twelve months of business
Following on from its opening under community ownership, on September 8th, 2002, its first few weeks of business were a period of intense activity. Organisation was key. Deciding who was to be responsible for what, out of the myriad of different things to be done, was the first task.
Roger Tett and Denise Nicholls were very much in the front line. They were to be responsible for the day-to-day running of the shop, which included stock control, ordering of stock, pricing and training of staff (mainly volunteers). James Crowden, helped by Anne Rose, was in charge of looking for new products and suppliers, and liaising with Roger and Denise on action to be taken.
Tony Laws–Spindler was in charge of the maintenance of the shop premises. Stella Abbey had the job of organising the volunteers into rotas, and arranging any statutory training.
The Chairman and Treasurer (Robert Shearer and Mary Pye) became ex-officio members of all teams. This helped to ensure that tight financial control was central to everything that the shop did.
During this period KDJ Slade & Sons were commissioned to take on some essential building works.

Disaster struck
This period was expected to be difficult, but no one could have predicted the flash flood that engulfed the shop following a heavy rain storm, a couple of weeks after the opening. In a matter of minutes the floor of the shop was covered with several inches of water and mud. All the electrical systems failed, including the one powering the Post Office computer.
Within twenty minutes the shop was full of volunteers cleaning up the mess. The electrics took a little longer to fix, but this event, which could have been a complete disaster, was dealt with quickly, and the shop was soon back operating as normal. It did mean however, that flood defence had to be added to the already long list of things to do. The speed of the response was yet another indication of the level of support from the community.
Practicalities needed to be addressed-the first six months
Many issues had to be addressed in a very short period of time. Roger Tett was anxious to discuss aspects of food handling with the Environmental Food Officer. This had a direct bearing on whether fresh cooked meats could be sold at that time. One problem was that the shop was without a hot water supply, and the staff toilet needed serious attention.
Statutory training had to be addressed. Food Hygiene Certificates were required by all the staff and behind-the-counter volunteers who might handle non-prepacked foods.
Winsham Shop Ltd, under its new management was a new business, and without a track record. This brought with it a particular set of problems. Major suppliers insisted on pre-payment or financial guarantees from the Directors. The Directors agreed to this, but it underlines the commitment by ordinary Winsham people to the business, and the community, with no prospect of personal reward. All this was in addition to the shares and loans they had made to the business.
Board meetings were held each month. During the first few months, while the shop was restocking and building work being carried out, the revenue from shop sales was not covering outgoings, but this had been anticipated and planned for.
Two important trading issues had to be settled. It was agreed that the shop should open at 7.00am and the closing time of 5.30pm should be put into effect as soon as possible. This would depend on availability of volunteers for the afternoon rotas.
As a matter of pricing policy it was agreed that low margins would be applied to major consumables such as milk. At this time, local milk rounds were being discontinued, which provided a marketing opportunity.
Bob Elkin, the Post Master, who was appointed by Post Office Counters on a temporary basis, negotiated his permanent situation with the shop, and the Directors were happy for this to happen. The deal involved some income for the shop, but just as important it made a temporary situation permanent.
Six months into the venture, the trading situation was clearly improving, and the target of £2,800 a week in turnover was being achieved on a regular basis, although the level of profit being achieved was not known. The first Christmas had passed successfully, and more was becoming known about the buying habits of Winsham’s diverse population.
Recognising early some of the factors that affected demand reduced the financial risk of over-stocking, especially with regard to perishable products. For example, it was noticed that demand for bread reduced during school holidays. Slow moving lines of stock were removed. Inefficient suppliers were dropped. A wider range of wholesalers were being used to meet specific needs. New merchandising ideas such as an official opening day and a ‘Fair Trade’ event were organised. Internal systems were tightened up. Many ideas were tried; some worked, some did not!

The years go by – the view from 2012
Looking back over the last ten years or so, by any standards of a community venture, Winsham Shop is an outstanding success.
Turnover has grown steadily. The original target of £2,800 pw has risen to over £5,000pw. The gross margin is now 22%, compared to the target of 18% established in 2002 when the shop opened. Central to this has been the marketing strategy. It has been described as ‘dual market’ whereby basic grocery lines are supplemented by premium products which attract a small additional margin. Linked to this has been careful attention to what customers want. Winsham residents are huge tea drinkers and the shop stocks nineteen brands and types of tea. The promotion of local produce is also an important aspect of their business.
Winsham Shop sells a wide range of chilled and frozen produce.

The majority of Winsham residents continue to use local supermarkets for their main shop of the week, due to the enormous range of brands that they carry. In response, Winsham Shop carries over 3,000 brands, and due to skilful pricing, it holds its own. Non-grocery convenience items also play their role is supporting the margin, as do the newspapers and magazines.
Other factors also play their part in cementing the relationship of shop and village. The economics and convenience of travel to the local towns are deteriorating, to the benefit of the shop. Bus services have been reduced, and the rapidly increasing cost of petrol and diesel fuel, and parking charges and limitations also encourages car owners to stay in Winsham and use the shop and post office.
Most of the Supermarkets are now delivering orders to the villages, but there is usually a minimum purchase level, so it does not have much effect on the use of Winsham Shop.
Among some of its customers, using the shop and post office is seen as the ‘loyal’ thing to-do, and they are often rewarded by finding that prices can be lower than in a supermarket.
The Post Office
The Post Office located in the shop is a very valuable facility during a period of tremendous change brought about by the Internet and broadband. Volumes of letter mail are falling dramatically, and the communication habits of the population are changing, due to the explosion in the use of e-mail and texting.Kate Fox
The sale of postage stamps may have fallen, but parcel post has increased (largely thanks to e-Bay). Furthermore, thanks to the Internet and broadband during the first decade of the new Millennium, the range of services now offered has grown quickly. It now acts as a mini–bank, offering some banking services including cash withdrawals, currency exchange services and bill payment services.
Winsham Shop has also made use of the Internet to expand its services. It occupies a major area within the Parish Web Site, where it promotes its merchandise and services, and its monthly ’Special Offers’. These are also promoted in Winsham’s weekly e-letter.

It also operates a PAY POINT facility whereby customers can pay utility bills and top up their mobile phones. It is also using a modern electronic system for stock control, and research into supermarket prices, a vital part of maintaining competitive prices. A photo-copying service is also available.
The shop also offers charge accounts which are settled monthly, and payment by credit card, all made much easier with the growth in low cost information technology.
Winsham Shop also maintains its important role as the communications centre of the village. It maintains large notice boards for use by the village and local businesses and acts as an unpaid facilitator for distribution and payment of tickets for local events. It sells Parish Magazines, taking no margin and is a reception point for editorial contributions to the Parish Magazine. It also lends its windows for displays associated with parish events.
Central to its success is the friendly, helpful service experienced by everyone who visits the shop. The person behind the counter may well be a friend and neighbour, or the well known face of one of the regular staff. In turn, the customers are remarkably tolerant when there is a long queue, or a new volunteer, although trained, gets into a muddle with the electronic till!
Christmas at Winsham Shop!
 A  regular part  of the village celebrations is the arrival of Father Christmas, and his hour or so stay in his specially prepared grotto ( part of the storage area-but don't tell the kids!). Meanwhile the adults area entertained with mulled wine and mince pies as a small thank you for their custom and support during the year that is soon to pass.
Santa arrives and not a reindeer in sight!
Father Christmas in his grotto.
Staff & volunteers join in.
The children queue up to see Santa Claus.

A combination of talents and skills
Robert Shearer resigned as Chairman of the Board of Directors in 2005. He was followed by Jeremy Leighton, who unfortunately served for only two years, due to an unanticipated move out of the area. The present Chairman, Denis McCallum has held the post since 2007.
Each has brought a different style to the management appropriate to the business during their time at the helm.. Other Officers have also changed. There have been three Company Secretaries, and several Financial Directors. Board members have also changed. Officers and Board Members receive no payment for their services, but the duties, especially those devolving to the Officers are  onerous and demand a lot of time and effort.
Remarkably, two key appointments (Roger Tett and Denise Nicholls) have not changed during the first ten years; a partnership of incredible value to the business. Roger Tett and Margaret Long are the only two Directors who have remained on the Board since the start of Winsham Shop Ltd in 2002.
A list of the current Board of Directors is shown below-
Denis McCallum (Chairman), Roger Tett (Managing Director), Paula Bramley Ball (Finance Director), Richard Rose, Eric West, Margaret Long, Jean Spurdle, Sarah Gleadell (Secretary).
Published March 2013

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