A new body to support rural stores in England and Wales and campaign on their behalf will be launched next month. The Rural Shops Alliance is being launched by the charity Village Retail Services Association (ViRSA), and is being headed by Sean Carter who campaigned on behalf on rural stores as an executive with wholesaler Nurdin & Peacock and later Booker. The initiative is a major development by ViRSA, which has mainly concentrated on helping rural communities resurrect failed village shops. Carter said the new body would have two main functions, giving support tailored to rural retailers' needs, and providing a campaigning voice for rural retailers. He explained: "If Downing Street wants to talk to rural retailers there is no single body that represents them. We will provide a focus and a voice that must be heard." Carter said the first step would be to set up a steering group and get retailers to decide where they needed help. He denied the Rural Shops Alliance would compete with the National Village Shops Association, a body he helped to form four years ago. He is a member of the NVSA national council and said: "We will work together, but the Alliance will have much stronger financial backing and will be supported by ViRSA's team of field workers covering England and Wales." The new body, which will be launched on November 6, will have three tiers of membership: retailers, for an annual fee of £36; select' for major manufacturers, suppliers and trade associations; and associate for smaller regional organisations and companies. Carter said suppliers had an interest in supporting the £5bn rural market, and he had already talked to major companies and associations. But he added: "The most important thing will be providing a service for rural retailers. To ensure that benefits flow to retailers, that they get value for their money, and we help them prosper." - See Opinion, p16 {{NEWS }}