New research, from the Plunkett Foundation’s ‘A Better Form of Business’ reports, reveals strong community business growth and a growing movement of rural community grassroots campaigners.

Despite extremely difficult trading conditions, the courage of rural communities is creating business growth where commercial companies fail.

UK charity the Plunkett Foundation has published today, Monday 10 October 2022, two reports revealing an increase in the number of community-owned businesses amidst declining sectors and the severe trading difficulties of the last two years due to the pandemic.

The Better form of Business reports identify that by the end of 2021 15 new community-owned pubs opened to take the total number to 146 trading across the UK and representing sector growth of 11 per cent. Similarly, 12 new community shops opened last year bringing the total to 407 community shops and representing a sector growth of 3 per cent.

Amongst a backdrop of pub, retail and high street closures the new openings reveal a phenomenal growth, and interest in, community-owned businesses. In just 20 years communities have taken control of the businesses that are most important to them and have increased these from just 95 in 2002 to 800 in 2022.

James Alcock, Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation, explained: “Every business in the UK is facing unprecedented trading difficulties – but through sheer determination communities are joining together to safeguard pubs, shops and other businesses to ensure that they continue to serve everyone in their community, especially those most in need. We’re incredibly proud to support communities from the initial spark of an idea to trading and then helping them, and their rural communities, to thrive in the long term.”

Community-owned businesses have demonstrated a remarkable resilience with a survival rate of 99% for pubs and 92% for shops. Whilst the cost of living and energy crisis provides new challenges the Plunkett Foundation continues to offer communities expert business advice and support is committed to growing their numbers by a further 20% in the next five years.

James continues: “Their success is testimony to unparalleled loyal local customers, democratic and open membership, dedicated volunteers and through truly serving their community’s needs. These communities are fighting to save village life and are courageously taking collective responsibility for their future.”

The findings are published in The Better form of Business reports produced by the Plunkett Foundation and funded by Power to Change, an independent trust supporting community businesses in England.

Plunkett has supported nearly 800 community businesses to set-up UK-wide and is working with a further 500 groups currently seeking to establish community-owned businesses – they not only support their local communities but play a key role in rural and national prosperity.

Community-owned businesses help their rural communities to flourish. They bring people together to provide local jobs, training and volunteering opportunities, they support those on low incomes or unable to travel, they help reduce loneliness and isolation and improve the general wellbeing of all.

Tim Davies-Pugh,  Chief Executive of Power to Change and funder of the reports said “At Power to Change, we know community business works to create thriving places by taking ownership over spaces that matter and delivering services that communities need. We have seen remarkable community businesses adapt to the changing landscape, facing many challenges, to strengthen local communities.

 “The Better form of Business reports reveal a sector that provides an inspirational lead for other businesses to follow, and we will continue to amplify the efforts of community businesses to put them at the heart of a fair economy.”

The Better Business reports will be launched at a reception at the House of Lords today, hosted by Baroness Natalie Bennett. The event is being sponsored by Hastoe Housing Association.

Anne Perkins, Board Member at Hastoe Housing Association said: “Hastoe and the Plunkett Foundation share many of the same values and have a similar mission. While Plunkett helps sustain rural communities by supporting community businesses, Hastoe helps sustain rural communities by building affordable homes for rent and shared ownership in perpetuity.

“Without doubt, community businesses play a vital role in supporting rural populations. They are not just the suppliers of goods and services but a hub where communities come together to take part in activities. They’re places that provide employment and volunteering opportunities; where people can both give and get support. With the ever-increasing cost of living, community businesses will continue to provide a lifeline for those people who are most in need. Now, more than ever, rural communities and community businesses need our support.”

For full details and to download the reports click here