From the Coddenham Community Shop Committee
Dear Shareholder and Supporter.
We shop in interesting times.
After we opened the shop in September 2019 and in the first few months of trading, we were pretty sure of the trajectory and the types of potential issues facing the business – having been hit with 5 months of road closures, followed by 3 of incessant rain and the near miss of the Northern Bypass – we were possibly expecting the “swarm of locusts” – but instead, we got Covid19!
Amongst other things, this meant we had to close entirely for 2 weeks over Easter following a suspected contact with Covid-19 by one of our volunteers, and losing nearly 75% of our volunteers due to them being more elderly, or having specific medical issues or vulnerable people at home.
Despite all this, we have remained open and trading – in no small part due to the superb organisational support of the management and the Herculean efforts of all the volunteers that have been able to continue with us throughout the period.
Adapting to the “new normal”
The calamitous effects of the global pandemic on people’s lives across the world is clear to see. In our quiet corner of Suffolk, we have undoubtedly been lucky to have avoided the worst, but we have had to adapt too.
Since opening as a community shop in September 2019, our aim has always been to be an inclusive business providing both superb service to our customers and a hub for the community we serve. To continue delivering on this meant we had to adapt our business model – and to operate with many fewer volunteers. Our decision to close the café and move to a “call and collect” and delivery service meant we could support regular shop customers as well as delivering to those isolating or in lockdown in Coddenham and many of the surrounding villages – which proved to be a vital lifeline to so many people. Working alongside the other community organisations, especially the Day Foundation and Gardemau Trust, via the Coddenham Covid-19 Response Group, we also helped deliver specific support “packages” to a number of the more vulnerable groups in the area.
Challenge in the numbers
If you recall, the shop actually delivered sales revenues for the first 4 months of trading well in line with the original business plan with very good gross margins in excess of target, especially in the café and takeaway business. This success continued – and at the half year stage (31st March) although we made a small loss (of £3500) for the period, it was a much better result than budgeted. However, the budgets provided for increased sales in future months, which now we are of course very unlikely to achieve.
It goes without saying that the first few weeks of lockdown were difficult and not surprisingly had a significant effect on overall revenue and margin. However, since then we have been moving forward.
The committee have been busy – and very successful in a number of grant applications for special Covid-19 business financial support – achieving in total £22,500, effectively securing our cashflow for the medium term.
Over the weeks we have also been gradually working to re-open services. We began with offering at-the –door shopping and takeaway coffees, drinks and snacks again. We also worked hard to make changes in the village shop layout and operations to ensure safe working for volunteers and customers – this allowed us to start initial re-opening to in-store customers – two at a time – and now we are almost back to pre-Covid opening hours. As a result, we are seeing more volunteers returning, customers coming back and buying more, sales increasing and revenues and margins continuing to improve.
The better news…
As the restrictions ease, we are now looking at a plan for the safe re-opening of the in-store coffee shop, hopefully in the next few weeks. This will be re-configured with fewer tables inside and with appropriate social distancing and recommended “track and trace” contact details collection in place. In addition we are looking to “spread outdoors” a little with a few more tables outside the front of the shop. A little of the al fresco Café Society arrives in Coddenham!
The Outreach Post Office is returning – on Friday 17th July! This will initially be for Friday mornings only as Ravi, the business owner sorts out the staffing requirements needed to get back to all 3 sessions – hopefully very soon.
And of course we received a wonderful letter and great morale booster from the Countess of Euston, HM Lord Lieutenant, thanking everyone for their efforts on behalf of the community. (I have replied on everyone’s behalf and invited Lady Clare to take tea with us sometime in the future!). This was also featured prominently in a double spread EADT article– as part of their Local Hero’s campaign.
Where to now?
We are not out of the woods yet, especially when it comes to Covid19 and any fresh challenges it might throw at us. However, as we approach September and our first full year of trading, I think we all have a lot to be proud of and thankful for. The shop manager for navigating us through the crisis, volunteers for being so flexible, supportive and hard-working, shareholders for unstinting support and encouragement –the committee for the quiet, calm counsel that helps oil the wheels to get everything done – and of course our customers for spending lots of their money with us. Thank you all.
What else we have done and what you can next expect from us next.
- You should have received your individual Share Certificates which were posted out to all shareholders.
- We sent out all the certificates and required tax claim forms for the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme on 9th June. Please let me know if this has not been received.
- Under separate note we have written to you about a “virtual” General Meeting scheduled for Wednesday 12th August and the need for you to vote beforehand on a resolution as to whether company accounts should undergo a full audit or a lighter, lower cost accountants report (which is the management committee recommendation). It is important that as many shareholders as possible vote to ensure the committee have a firm steer for the decision
- Our company year-end is 30th September. Release of the full annual report, accounts and annual shareholders meeting will be in January 2021.
As always, I and the rest of the team would be delighted to receive your questions, comments and suggestions on anything we have covered here or on any other aspect of yourbusiness. Drop us an e-mail, call or comment below – we are all always happy to discuss anything and everything about Coddenham Community Shop!
Rod and the Coddenham Community Shop Committee