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Thriving village shops are vital to the well-being of many rural communities and provide a way to bring more products and services to Finland's ageing population.
The Finnish Grocery Trade Association (FGTA) has applied for funding for a project to turn small village shops into active service hubs for their local communities. The idea is to bring in a wide range of private and public services to the shops which would not otherwise be available to the residents of many rural areas.
According to FGTA's director Ilkka Nieminen, it would be simple to provide library services to many remote areas through the village shops. Other services could include opportunities to meet with social workers or municipal staff responsible for elderly care. An internet connection would also provide access to the municipality's electronic services. The FGTA also supports allowing the sales of non-prescription medicines, such as painkillers and gastrointestinal products, in the grocery stores which is currently not possible in Finland.
Finland's population is ageing fast and many areas of the country are sparsely populated, so the survival of village shops also has important national and social policy dimensions. The shops can support the continued habitation of the whole country and contribute significantly to the dynamism and healthy social structures of their areas. Elderly people who prefer to live at home can be supported by making more services available on a local level. Services also need to be provided to people without cars.
Many of the shops that have survived in the rural areas are already much more than a place to get the groceries. Their product ranges also include hardware and agricultural products, as well as postal, tourism and restaurant services. Many shops are also committed to providing an outlet for locally produced food. They play a major role in helping other services to remain in an area.
Finnish companies like Itella and Yliopiston Apteekki have already expressed interest in participating in the FGTA's project. The FGTA's member companies' and associations' share of the Finnish retail market for groceries is approximately 95%.
Sources: Maaseudun Tulevaisuus, Finnish Grocery Trade Association
10 August 2012
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