PEOPLE struggling on Universal Credit could save £200 a month on their shopping thanks to a radical new store.

Community Shop, which opened a branch in Runcorn ShoppingCity on Tuesday, offers heavily discounted branded groceries that would otherwise have been destined for landfill due to manufacturer errors.

At the opening of the store, Community Shop's fifth, company director Gary Stott told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "We've been able to offer that food to the people who needed it most but could afford it least."

The shop itself, behind Runcorn police station, looks like any other convenience store, with rows of supermarket own-brand goods alongside Heinz soups and Old El Paso fajita kits.

The "defects" are minor – a small printing error, slightly deformed packaging – but enough to mean the products can't be sold at high street supermarkets.

But where previously they would have been thrown away, Community Shop is able to sell this surplus at huge discounts of around two-thirds of the normal retail price to help people on means-tested benefits.

Mr Stott said: "Customers save on average £212 a month.

"We had people who came to the till and were visibly moved by not having to worry about feeding the family."

The comparison with the UK's growing number of foodbanks is obvious, and Community Shop does work with groups like the Trussell Trust, but Mr Stott sees the company as more of a "first responder" that allows people to feel like they're getting a bargain and doing things for themselves instead of receiving charity.

He said: "In all the communities we operate in, one of our principal partners is the foodbank because one of the things they're looking for is where people go after they've received those three emergency food parcels.

"When we get our partnerships right, we're about prevention rather than response to poverty.

"Before the crisis happens, people can use the services here to get back into the swing of the life that they want to live."

As well as the shop itself, those services include the Community Hub and Community Kitchen, which are funded by profits from the store and help people to get their lives back on track.

This can involve support for getting help for mental health problems, overcoming social isolation through cooking and eating together or identifying skills that they need to develop or jobs that are available to them.

The Runcorn branch is the first Community Shop to open in the Liverpool city region, but Mr Stott said the company was considering other parts of the region, adding to its stores in Yorkshire, Grimsby and south-east London.

He said: "We are committing to the region. It's a region that's really important to us."