At the meeting on Wednesday Hugh Robertson, the member who was tasked with collating and making sense from the myriad of ideas and potentials for Stirchley Stores when we leave Loaf next year, gave a short presentation. You can download a PDF of his slides here and I’ve repurposed them as notes below.
The main thing to remember is these are not concrete plans and we’re not necessarily going this route – that’s to be decided by the membership (and, as a side note, we’re looking into ways people can vote on such things without attending meetings). This is just a coherent starting point. Any feedback or ideas you have around this are very welcome. Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org, pop them in a folder in the corridor or leave them in the comments to this post. I’ll make sure they get to the right place.
I’ve added some notes of clarification that came up during the presentation in italics.
The Future of Stirchley Stores
Facts, Issues, Models and Recommendations
- Community based
- Local Suppliers
Our Future with Loaf
Following a meeting with Loaf on the 11th July the following became clear:
- That a joint venture involving Stirchley Stores and the proposed Loaf Café would not be considered even if we had separate premises.
- That our selling of Loaf bread would be a non starter. No-one other than Loaf will be selling their bread.
- That before and following our departure Loaf would be happy to allow us to continue to use the store room whilst we made other arrangements. They have no plans for the stock room.
- That both Loaf and Stirchley Stores would be happy to promote each other’s ventures.
Looking to the Future
- Lloyds Entrepreneur Fund looks promising. This will pay for a full time staff member for a year. We should hear in a fortnight.
- On track to be taking on our first member of staff Sept/October.
- Autumn arrival of EPOS system.
- PDQ settling down.
- Volunteer Coordinator settled down and working to hit targets.
A SWOT is a method for looking at our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
- Committed volunteers with 60-80 active members out of a membership of 150
- A wide range of experience amongst those volunteers including marketing, finance, stock, building management etc
- The shop has become a focus point for social meetings whilst shopping
- Sales that have grown incrementally since we began
- The bread has been the initial draw for the customer base
- Consistency cannot always be maintained via volunteers
- Not as engaged with other local retailers as we should be
- Not as engaged with the community as we could possibly be
- Chance to consolidate current position and sort out future direction
- To use the remaining time to try out different products and themes within a retail setting.
- To look at other models including warehouse, distribution centre, social area.
- To employ our first worker in our co-operative
The use of the word “Threats” in a SWOT is a bit unfortunate. These are more potential issues that can be overcome.
- We have not got the people who can dedicate their time to all that needs doing
- That our model does not appeal to the local population
- That other local retailers might be opposed to us
- That we make a loss
Option 1 – Stay and Finish as we are
- Close down in nine months
- Sell remaining stock off
- Vote and decide what to with the profits
- Close down Co-operative
Option 2 – Revert to Bulk buying group
It was agreed that “revert” is the wrong language here as there are lots of different models we could adopt. “Become a buying group” is better.
- Use remaining stock to supplement bulk items
- Use the existing storage at Loaf as the distribution centre
- Use volunteers to receive, account for and make up bulk orders
- Use Volunteer Coordinator and new worker to build up orders and co-ordinate organisation.
Option 3 – Stay on the High Street as a retail outlet
- Find a replacement niche market for the bread
- Extend our range of goods to include new lines such as cheese and produce
- Make much more of the local suppliers and invite them to take over certain lines
- Make good design, layout, packaging and marketing our brand much more central
Option 4 – Create a Community based venture
Hugh couldn’t think of a better term. In essence, a company that doesn’t need a shop to function.
- Develop a building that can store, prepare, package and distribute our products to other shops, markets, organisations and pop-up shops and which could create employment
- Get other partners to prepare, package and distribute their products from this base
- Develop the social aspect of the base with an informal café and meeting place
- Develop the retail aspect so it is highly mobile and develop a delivery service.
- Rent or Purchase?
- Scoop or Package?
- Volunteers or Workers?
Rent or Purchase?
- Rent +
- Less Financial Risk
- Maintained by Landlord
- Rent −
- Risk being giving notice
- Cost of setting up again
- Purchase +
- Financial Asset including possible revenue
- More control
- Purchase −
- Having to raise the finance
- Having to maintain property
Scoop or Package?
- Scoop +
- Customer buys exactly the amount they want
- Less environmental footprint
- Keeps cost down
- Scoop −
- Hygiene issues
- Branding difficult
- Package +
- Easy for customer to purchase
- Can be retailed elsewhere
- Displays brand
- Package −
- Labour intensive
- Higher environmental footprint
Volunteers or Workers?
Again, as the core of the workforce. Ideally a mix of both.
- Volunteers +
- Involves local people
- Keeps cost down
- Volunteers −
- Can walk away
- Become focused on single aspect
- Workers +
- Its in their interest for it to work
- Offers different employment possibilities
- Workers −
- Costs involved
- Marginalises volunteers
- Make the best use of our remaining time:
- Tryout new scoop section and make it mobile. Take it to markets, pop-up venues, etc.
- Design and create packaging.
- Look at creating hygienic packaging area in current storeroom.
- Employ our first worker and deal with employment issues.
- Develop links with schools, shops, churches and other local organisations that make take our products.
- Develop our current partnerships.
- Create a small group who pursue the following:
- Do we purchase or rent a shop on the high street?
- Do we make use of the Friends meeting house or similar place?
- Do we go into partnership with others such as Pip’s sauces
- Whatever we do will involve a lot of hard work for a number of people.
There then followed a discussion about how we might do all this and such. Minutes from that will be up as soon as possible.