Initial public meeting about the closure of Hallbankgate shop
Lacy Thompson Hall, 7.30pm, Tuesday 9 December 2014
Steve Bowles chaired the meeting, and reported his conversation with Jim Harper, the Scotmid manager:
- Scotmid would prefer to sell the Co-op to another commercial operator.
- Failing that, they would be supportive of a community venture.
- The decision to close HBG shop at the end of April is final.
- Scotmid will not work with the HBG community.
- Penrith Co-op members were consulted re shop closure, as represented by their elected board. Individual members were not consulted.
- Scotmid owns the shop freehold (the flats above have already been sold off) and all assets of Penrith Co-op.
- Scotmid “entered into a partnership with Penrith Co-op”, which is now defunct.
- The store is being marketed by circulating particulars within the retail trade.
- Will any other Co-op take over the HBG shop? No, if Scotmid cannot make it pay, nor can any other Co-op.
- Would Scotmid be supportive of the HBG community to the extent of gifting the freehold? No! but they would consider leasing it to us for a nominal rent for a few years to enable a community venture to get going.
- Scotmid estimates the freehold is “not worth very much”, perhaps £50,000 or £60,000.
- The shop is not currently viable on the Scotmid model, “five-figure losses” per annum.
- Scotmid rules say there must be two staff in the shop at all times, costing £1800 – £2000 per week at £20 per hour to keep the shop open.
- Sales have dropped from c£6000 per week in the Penrith Co-op era to c£4500 per week with Scotmid.
- Jim Harper said it would not be appropriate for Scotmid to be represented at this meeting.
A few points made during the meeting:
- A community shop may be a more viable business model (probably because it would be reliant on volunteers).
- An application to Carlisle City Council for the HBG Co-op to be registered as an Asset of Community Value would, if successful, give a mandatory six-month stay of execution and access to external funding.
- Brampton and Beyond Trust would support a community venture.
- The Post Office in the shop is an outreach run by Fourways.
- The Plunkett Foundation says “no community shops closed last year”.
- A community shop would become a registered charity as an Industrial and Provident Society.
- Nobody at the meeting has seen the HBG shop advertised as a going concern.
- The “Quarry money”, currently £6500 a year, is expressly for the community. The Farlam Parish Trust was founded and exists to administer this fund, and has the power of decision to put money into a shop. There is currently £18000 in the account (with more to come in January).
- The community should be asked what it wants from the shop. Scotmid never did this.
- It is estimated the shop will need 100 hours of input a week to keep it going.
- The parish council will be asked to convene and establish an organising group on the basis of the return of the questionnaire.
- A majority show of hands indicated that people think a community venture is a viable possibility.
There were between 100 and 150 people at the meeting, which closed at 8.30pm.