High Street Organics

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by High Street Organics's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from High Street Organics is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Chairman Dr Colin Clark
A good view of inside
part of the shop
High Street Organics is an organic food shop that also sells
handmade goods and books from local suppliers. Its focus
on co-operative working, according to Chairman Dr Colin
Clark, served as the company’s lifeline during a critical point in
its history. It operates in the small but highly competitive market
town of Bruton, Somerset, against three supermarkets and a
variety of other businesses. Dr Clark tells
The Parliamentary
about the turbulent times High Street Organics has
faced and how the board’s drive turned the business around.
Before the present team came back in 2011 to rescue what was an ailing business,
the weekly turnover was just over £2,000, with a stock value of £6,700. During the
previous two years it had lost over £20,000: a dire situation indeed.
Following more co-operative ways of working, two staff members out of eight
worked for no pay for 10 months in order to clear the bank overdraft and to start
paying off other debts. During this time the customers were treated in a friendly
way, the range of goods increased, a better supplier of fruit and vegetables was
found and some prices were reduced.
Within weeks of our return, trade began to increase and by the autumn of 2011
the income had increased to over £3,000 a week, thus allowing wages to be paid
to the two previously unpaid staff.
»Chairman: Dr Colin Clark
»Founded in 2002
»Located in East Somerset
»Services: Organic fruit and
vegetable retailer
»No. of employees: 8
High Street Organics
Highlighting best practice
By 2013 the stock value had increased
to £13,000 and the weekly turnover
was over £4,000. Staff wages were
increased and our prices, especially
for fruit and vegetables and some dry
goods, were reduced once again. This
larger range of goods attracted a wider
range of customers including those
who lived some miles away.
Costs were reduced by reusing office
materials, extra shelf space being
put up by volunteers, and a dramatic
reduction in wastage from over £3,000
a year to about £1,200. The latter was
achieved by close monitoring of stock
rotation and through putting marked-
down goods in a bargain box.
Our friendly and caring service
attracted more people to the shop.
We know many of our customers
personally and the shop has become
a meeting place for friends both old
and new: the true spirit of the Friendly
Society Movement that had begun
during the late 18th century had
returned to the shop.
An offer you can’t refuse
By 2014 we had approached our
landlord and made an offer on the
shop premises. An unfavourable rent
review in the summer of the same year
finally led him to offer us, as sitting
tenants, a chance to buy the shop.
Under difficult lending conditions, the
Co-operative Bank agreed to lend us
about 60 per cent of the cost, with the
remainder made up of cash in hand
and a small private loan, repayable
after five years.
Further growth in trade allowed us to
repay the main loan by early 2019,
making High Street Organics the
freeholder of 57 High Street. This rapid
rate of progress meant the business
and its premises are secure for the
future. It also meant that we could
immediately give the staff a substantial
pay rise. With a current stock level
of £22,000 and rising trade, further
expansion of the business is now
Ongoing issues
Car parking in Bruton has been an
issue for over 50 years. There is limited
parking on the High Street for all
retail businesses, but none outside
our premises at present. In 2014 an
application to the county council was
made for parking, and it was agreed in
writing that the parking be extended
to include the shop frontage. This
has not yet been completed, despite
the highways officer returning and
making a verbal promise to honour
A customer gets served
A product of the father
of one of our customers
We know
many of our
personally and
the shop has
become a
meeting place
for friends both
old andnew
While we acknowledge that, as
a business trading in foodstuffs,
standards of hygiene, health and
safety have to be maintained, there
are several other aspects that make
our long-term goals more difficult
Most important is the absence of
a tax break on corporation tax: we
need some of our profit to be set
aside for essential maintenance and
repairs. With an annual profit of about
£10,000, an allowance of £2,000
would be a great help.
Further help relates to the threshold
for VAT, which has remained the same
for over 10 years even though other
costs and personal tax allowances
have increased. The government must
understand that small businesses
have very little money to use and
are therefore more vulnerable than
larger businesses, which have larger
reserves to call upon. Hence if the VAT
threshold were to increase to £100,000
it would mean an additional £3,000 of
annual income, of which 19 per cent
would be returned in corporation tax
at present. For a business that is just
ticking over and is facing increasing
costs, this could be the difference
between survival orclosure.
Future fruits
With so much goodwill and co-
operation there were few internal
disputes that can be so harmful to
businesses. The staff are expected to
use their initiative and maintain stock
level on the shelves during quieter
times. Prospective staff are carefully
interviewed with an expectation of a
positive and caring attitude towards
others. On-the-job training is provided.
High Street Organics would like to
show the rest of the United Kingdom
how the co-operative way of working
can make a difference to people’s lives.
Prospective staff
are carefully
interviewed with
an expectation
of a positive and
caring attitude
towards others
Staff directors and
supporters after our
celebration on buying
the shop premises


This article was sponsored by High Street Organics. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development