Village shops given reprieve

COMMUNITY shops in rural Suffolk have been given a reprieve by a major supermarket just days after it was due to axe a vital lifeline supporting them.

Jonathan Schofield

COMMUNITY shops in rural Suffolk have been given a reprieve by a major supermarket just days after it was due to axe a vital lifeline supporting them.

Sainsbury's informed all community shops that it's Assisting Villages Enterprise - set up a decade ago to allow rural community shops the chance to buy groceries in smaller bulk - was too expensive to run and would close at the end of last month.

But in a letter sent last week the supermarket has declared it will carry on the scheme until next March.

This means community shops can carry on ordering from Sainsbury's the specific number of items needed for customers without incurring high costs from a wholesaler.

Erica Pomerans, one of the original founders of Polstead's community shop - the country's second oldest which just celebrated its 25th anniversary - said the scheme was a wonderful idea that deserved to continue.

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She said: “Perhaps the delay is a chance for Sainsbury's to rethink what they are going to do. My hope is that they see what affect this will have and re-launch the scheme again next March.

“Suffolk has 11 community shops, more than Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire so it will impact on many people. We have 30 volunteers that work here and it was such a pioneering idea I can only hope Sainsbury's change their mind and carry on after March.”

Penny Hollman, who runs the Post Office Stores in Martlesham, said the scheme had been a “god send”.

“I received a letter last week to say it was continuing,” she said. “It might only be for a few months but in the current economic climate it will make a huge difference to so many businesses.”

A Sainsbury's spokesperson said: “We have decided to postpone the closure of the Assisting Village Enterprises scheme until March 1 to help shopkeepers through the busy Christmas and New Year period.”