Expanding farm retail

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When’s the best time for a refresh?

Businesses need change. It is a fact that good growth over a period of time will inevitably plateau and eventually decline. This is a phenomenon described by Charles Handy in his book ‘The Empty Raincoat’ with a Sigmoid curve. According to Handy, the best time to start a new curve - that is, intervene with changes that will produce new growth for your business - is before you reach the peak of your existing one - point A on the diagram. That way you’ll have resources and momentum; however, most people only think of doing something new when their business has begun a downwards trend, point B on the diagram. Catching the right moment is what it’s about and successful businesses are continually changing and reinventing.

Farm shops are not immune from the Sigmoid effect!  Retail Netwerks UK (RNUK) has observed over its 20+ years of working with farm retail businesses that they are generally slower to change than is good for them. Too often what was a thriving, leading edge farm shop goes into decline through staying too long in its ‘comfort zone’ and not making investment in change.

How can we help?

Retail Netwerks UK (RNUK) is a network of experts specialising in independent food retail and diversified farming businesses.

  • FIRST STEPS might be to call in a fresh pair of expert eyes. Invite us to spend a day with you reviewing your business. We’ll call together your management team to get your own assessment of what is needed and we will observe how your staff and shop perform. We will review your trading and management accounts, and prior to our visit we will assess your location and demographics. In most cases we’ll be ready at the end of our visit to give you some straight comments - maybe not solutions at this stage but directions of travel for you to consider. Our fee for this is £780.00 plus VAT and travel/accommodation if needed.

  • NEXT STAGES: each solution is bespoke so this is just a sample of what might be needed:

  • Feasibility study into new activities e.g. adding a cafe or changing the emphasis of the business

  • Farm shop redesign: bigger retailers know that refreshing merchandising and layout are critical to success - but farm retailers tend not to change frequently enough. Through the wonders of CAD we will show you how your farm shop could look with a new layout, merchandising and colour scheme. Our recommendations will be based on sound retail principles as well understanding limitations e.g. buildings and budgets. We can also produce a capital expenditure report.

  • Branding & communication: is your brand name and logo working for you or could it be better? Often the anwers to this will come from a feasibility study - or it might be that you feel it’s time for change. We are specialists in creating brands and graphics for effective impact.

  • Staff training: Through its network, RNUK can deliver training in customer service, specialist butchery and bakery skills, food and food service e.g. refreshing menus and/or reconstructing your kitchen.
    Research & benchmarking: understanding the wants & needs of your customers will help you keep them happier and keep them coming back. Our tried & tested research tools are cost effective and will help reveal exciting insights into your business, what your customers think of your planned improvements, and much more. As well as customer-related data, we also collect data that allows us to benchmark your business against others in the sector.


Case study: Releasing the potential of a large farm shop

Background: The retail unit is part of a large farming concern producing vegetables for supermarkets. In one large steel-framed agricultural building there was a farm/food shop, pet food shop, country clothing and equine requisites.  The retail business had been trading for over a decade and was underperforming given its size and location on a busy road linking heavily populated areas. Its Board had decided that the addition of a café had the potential to bring new life to the site. Before making any investments, however, RNUK was asked to produce a feasibility study examining the potential costs, time frames and return on investment.

What we did: It was clear that the site was not realising its potential with a confused offer and no clear branding. RNUK employed its Retail HealthCheck research tool to establish a detailed profile of existing customers, their usage of the outlet and opinions about change. This was done in-store electronically over a two week period so that all responses could be cross-tabulated.  The demographic profiles generated were used to identify hot-spots of similar customer types within defined drive-times - and then create a means of recruiting them as customers. In addition, passing traffic and traffic turning into the site was assessed over a two week period. A rich data-set was created to inform improvements.

Results: The Retail HealthCheck analysis revealed that the business was currently underperforming, realising only about 50% of its potential. The café emerged as highly desirable, but only if correctly designed in terms of its demographic appeal.

A basis for investment was required from the feasibility study, covering financial implications and returns over a period of three years. The  feasibility study examined restructuring the retail on the site and adding a café, properly managed and staffed producing some foods from scratch. RNUK carefully designed the café to have 80 covers with kitchens, stores and toilets. RNUK also reviewed the rest of the retail on the site with recommendations for rearranging all other departments to optimise customer flow. Further, RNUK recommended that some departments were moved on-line for click & collect for those customers whose only use of the outlet was for these items.

New fascia panels and branding were introduced for roadside impact. RNUK designed the café to make the best use of window and outside space to produce a relaxed ambience with a country feel. RNUK even produced the cutting plans for the farm’s own local contractors to make bespoke servery and storage units. RNUK recommended a design & colour palette which was followed very effectively to appeal to the target market and be consistent across the site.  
The café has proved very popular and has introduced a new type of customer to the site, who is shopping for a wider range of foods and products. Turnover for the site doubled in six months and is still on an upwards trajectory.