The Rural Shops Alliance has launched what it claims is the first survey measuring the social value of village stores.

The RSA said it was conducting the survey because although it was constantly trying to tell politicians how important rural shops were, it was very difficult to put a monetary value on it.

As well as asking retailers standard questions such as how many shop or Post Office customers a day they serve, the survey also delves deeper into the shop’s role in the wider community.

It quizzes retailers on the number of regular customers who are elderly and living alone, who do not own a car or who are care assistants buying for housebound patients. It even asks them how often they help out local residents or provide directions to people passing through the village.

There are also questions on how many local people they employ, how many local suppliers they work with and how many local tradesman they use.

“The big supermarkets may publicise their much-exaggerated job creation, their investment in bricks or even their high-profile financial support for community projects, but, in fact, independent local shops contribute far more of worth to their neighbourhoods,” said RSA CEO Ken Parsons. “The government needs to recognise the vital social role of these local shops and fully reflect it in national policies.”

The RSA is encouraging retailers to also send the completed surveys to their parish, district and local councillors, as well as their local MPs.