In many countries, such as the US, consumer run shops are the most common type of food co-op. These are less common in the UK, but more and more communities are now running up shops.
Shops usually stock a wide range of foods and other goods, not just fresh produce. Many volunteer-run food co-ops with shops will have limited opening hours and so may either be open only on certain days, or sometimes every day but only for a few hours.
There are a lot of wholefood shops that are run by workers' co-operatives. There are also many rural community shops that are run on a co-operative basis by local volunteers. Both types of shop tend to be run on a commercial basis (i.e. not by not-for-profit organistions) and do not necessarily aim to supply food at cheaper prices.
The main advantage of having a shop is that there is usually a lot more space to store and display produce, so shops can sell a wider range of different products that customers may want to buy. They can also keep items that have a long shelf life in stock, without about having to worry about having to sell everything in one day.
The main disadvantage of shops is the higher running costs associated with having a permanent outlet, such as rent, electricity, rates, etc. and there may be a lack of suitable premises available. Also more people are needed to run a shop and keep it open for sufficient hours to supply customer's needs and cover costs.
Case Study - Fareshares Food Co-op
Fareshares is a non-profit making community project in Elephant and Castle in London that stocks simple healthy food and related products. It was set up in 1988 by local people to provide good food for the community at affordable prices. The store is open to anyone who wants to use it. It operates on a DIY basis where customers bring their own bags, weigh out and price up the goods they want. The food co-op is run on an entirely voluntary, unpaid basis by the people who use it.
- The Grow a Grocery guide has been produced by Unicorn Grocery with support of the food co-ops programme.