21st May 2018
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Aith shop to rely on more volunteers to safeguard its future

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The Eid Community Co-operative has drawn up a new business plan aimed at placing the shop on a more secure financial footing.

It comes following recent money troubles caused by the store failing to generate sufficient profits to cover its staffing costs.

Committee chairman Malcolm Smith said two part-time workers had left, which “lowers the wage bill straight away”. It retains a full-time manager and two part-time shop assistants, along with after-school helpers.

Mr Smith said the shop would need to rely on more volunteering if it is to make ends meet. At a recent meeting 30 people had indicated a willingness to help out.

“It’s going to be hard work to get the volunteering to work, but that’s what we need to do,” he said.

Mr Smith said accountants Baker Tilly had been brought in to help last year. The firm had immediately been quite frank in telling the committee that the shop, as it stood, was “not viable” and “we had to take stock and rethink the way the business was being run”.

He said the committee would stand down, as usual, at the co-operative’s annual general meeting in April. He hoped new blood would step forward to provide “fresh ideas” and “put a bit of energy back into the shop”.

Up against the seemingly unstoppable march of the supermarkets, many rural shops in Shetland are finding the going increasingly tough. But Mr Smith said the co-operative was not “anti-supermarket” and was not seeking to blame anyone for its predicament.

“It’s really up to the people whether they want to keep the shop going,” Mr Smith said. “If they choose to shop elsewhere that’s entirely up to them. We want it to be there for the future. We are still proud of our shop – sometimes you just need a bit of a wake-up call.”

He thanked suppliers, customers and anyone else who has an input into the shop for their support and understanding.

The co-operative was formed following the closure of Aith’s only shop in 2002. It moved into its existing premises, a converted knitwear factory in the heart of the village, in 2006.

That followed a fund-raising effort which saw £250,000 – including some assistance from the SIC and a national lottery grant – pulled in.

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