the makery house

The Green Gram Community Refill Shop

What was your project and why did you apply for funding?

The project was the setting up and running of a community refill shop based in Fordingbridge. It is called The Green Gram Community Refill Shop and is a Community Benefit Society registered with the FCA as a mutual society.

The shop is run by volunteers in order to make it a truly community venture and also as it is not paying wages, then it can reduce the mark up on the products to make them more accessible to those on lower wages. Our products have often received comments that they are cheaper than in the supermarket. We applied for funding to help with the initial set up costs and the sort of things we used it for were the shelving, crates, electrical items, tills, plumbing and other things that had to be purchased new.

Please briefly describe how you set up the project

The project was led by Jo Anderson, who had for a few years run a small mobile refill shop from a trailer. She realised that there was a market for refills and put a call out for volunteers to help set up a shop. A committee was formed in 2019 and through the Covid-19 pandemic, this group planned the project and during the winter of 2021 put the plan into action.

Premises were found, and with the help of the Plunkett Foundation, the right organisational structure was chosen, grants applied for (and successfully received!). With a huge amount of help from the Avon Valley Shed volunteers to remodel the interior, and with help from local tradesmen who donated their time to carry out plumbing and electrical work, the shop opened in May 2022.

What have been your successes?

Well, the primary success was opening up! For a group of people who haven’t done this sort of thing before, that was the greatest success! We have recruited 36 volunteers who help in the shop, with some working several shifts a week and others working once a month. We also have volunteers working in the background on tasks from ensuring our cloths and aprons are cleaned to keeping an eye on the accounts.

Our customer base and turnover has been steadily increasing week by week, with both a mix of returning customers and customers visiting us for the first time. Several of our customers have told us that they really like shopping with us because of the slower pace, with a chance to chat and exchange ideas. They also like being served by our volunteers rather than decanting products themselves- a stressful process for some!

What lessons have you learnt which might be useful to other groups/organisations?

  • Time spent planning and researching is not time wasted but at some point, you just have to take the plunge!
  • Ensure you have a wide range of skills (including financial) on your initiating group.
  • Get expert help – the Plunkett Foundation (who specialise in community shops) were very helpful but research and find the help that most closely fits your project.
  • Speak to and visit other similar ventures.
  • Make sure you have a solid business plan and funding in place.
  • Go for it!

Please add anything else you think would be relevant

We are hoping to organise outreach projects with primary schools to help pupils learn about refilling, waste reduction, weights and measures, change calculation and how to run a small enterprise.

Contact The Green Gram Community Refill Shop

[email protected]