Since the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, a huge 92% of farm retailers reporting significant increase in new customers according to research by the Farm Retail Association (FRA). This equated to an estimated combined turnover of £1.5 billion across the UK. This has caused a much more prevalent awareness of farm retail across consumers, leading to sustained increase in sales.
Is this the perfect time to be considering retail from your own farm gate? Don’t know where to start? Don’t know how you will staff it? Read on to get our view on important things to bear in mind. Remember, we are here to help.
Research and evaluate the demand and competition
Firstly, like any start-up business, it is necessary to determine demand and the local competition. We believe it is vital to consider the following when planning for your own farm retail enterprise.
Your proposed farm shop location
- What is the local population and does it have access to a nearby shop or retail outlet?
- Where is the nearest commercial retail outlet? E.g. supermarkets, grocers and butchers
- Where is the nearest farm shop?
- What is the logistical position of your proposed farm shop site?
- Does it have access to a frequently used road?
- Will it have ample space for parking and deliveries?
- Are there any specific sites of interest in the area? Can these be leveraged to increase footfall to your shop?
- Are there any plans for local developments such as roads in your area?
Understanding and penetrating the market
Initially, it is important to understand your target customer, dependant on your location and demographic your focus will likely be on one or two of the following:
- Local community members
- Tourists or holiday makers
- Passing traffic
- Local businesses such as restaurants and pubs
To ensure your farm retail is a success, you must offer value to the consumer above that of which they can obtain elsewhere. You can prevent local commercial outlets from having an impact on your retail, providing you differentiate your offering. This could be for example;
- Covid-19 saw 79% of farm retailers introduce click and collect services and 67% offering home deliveries (FRA)
- Does your proposed site offer a local shop, saving local people time and mileage?
- Convenient opening hours
- A diverse range of goods
- Offering a broad range of goods will increase footfall through your shop, as it gives consumers more reasons to visit
- Seasonal goods and offerings
- For example BBQ meat packs during the summer months
- High value goods
- This can be created though emphasis on locally produced food, such as box meats with marketing emphasis on sustainability
- Organic and free range goods
- Pricing structure
- This is very much subject to the area you live in and the consumer audience you are targeting. Remember, cheaper doesn’t always necessarily attract the most sales.
- Will the premises have attractive and modern facilities and aesthetics?
- Alternative offerings. For example, a coffee and cake offering is a good way to get people through the door.
Why not take some time to visit the nearest farm shops and delicatessens to you, to find out what they are offering and how their marketing works. You can use this research to inform your farm shop business plan.
Don’t be afraid of collaboration when it comes to farm retail, as this can increase your offering in terms of available products to create a real asset to your local community. See what opportunities exist around you for additional stock and products, or to supply local businesses such as pubs and restaurants. A focus on locally sourced products is a strong marketing point that should be leveraged.
Additionally, think about how you will staff and ultimately run the operation. Do you want to employ farm shop staff, run it yourself (we doubt you have time!) or perhaps a partnership or rental is the better way to go? Unless you have a burning desire to run a shop yourself, we recommend the use of joint ventures and tenancies. Not only do these reduce risk, but the store keeping, marketing and stock management can be very labour intensive.
Additionally, a farm retail enterprise can be a perfect opportunity to give younger generations within the farming business greater responsibility and input.
Marketing your farm retail enterprise
Farm shop success is dependant on reputation and public perception. It is therefore vital that the branding of your retail enterprise consistently portrays the following:
- A more friendly and personal shopping experience than commercial retail outlets
- Emphasis on local and sustainable produce, from reputable producers
- Ensure a personal connection between consumer and producer can be made across all goods
- Rural aesthetic and environmnent
Marketing your farm retail enterprise is likely to be time consuming, however it is vital for maintaining footfall and therefore sales. Word of mouth referral is often the best marketing tool and fits the rural nature of the business, but will be slow to develop. We believe its important to make use of the following tools as well:
- Social media pages
- Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are often the best ways to reach people and keep them updated on developments of your retail enterprise
- Road signage
- Local newsletters and papers
- External pop up retail – for example stalls at a market
Every successful farm retail business begins with an accurate and well thought out business plan. This takes time, discipline and often, a wide range of skillsets. If you have a desire to create your own farm retail enterprise but aren’t sure where to start, or would like assistance from business planning through to enterprise implementation, give us a call today for a free initial consultation.
Also, if you’re new to diversification, remember to use our free diversification discovery assistant. Simply fill out the questionnaire to receive a free report detailing advice on the best diversification for you and your farm.