The community-owned shop sector is in rude health, with 251 stores now boasting a collective turnover of more than £33m and growing at 7% annually.

In the most comprehensive survey of the sector so far, the Plunkett Foundation also found that, collectively, community-owned shops made a net profit of more than £1m in 2010, and that an average of 19 new shops had opened per year over the past decade.

James Alcock, Plunkett Foundation community retail manager, said that with only eight out of 259 having closed, the 97% survival rate has proved that community shops represented "a rational and achievable alternative for communities who had lost, or were at risk of losing their village shop."

Community shop growth is strongest in the south-west of England, where there are 75 such stores, closely followed by the south-east at 65.

In March, Plunkett established the Community Shops Network, a national forum which now has more than 200 members, enabling communities across the UK to share knowledge and support each other.