There is no chance of complaining at present of the world being boring. As I have started to write this blog, breaking news has just popped up on my phone, “President Donald Trump, America’s 45th Commander-in-chief has just been sworn in”. Five minutes prior to that the breaking news was Jeremy Corbyn saying in a speech that Scotland couldn’t survive as a separate nation, should it vote to remain in the EU and leave the UK – a very real possibility in my view. It’s Scotland where I am for the next few days at Scotland’s Speciality Food Show. I’m looking forward to seeing our many Scottish customers, many of whom travel for hours to come to this show, even if we are in deep snow, which it actually looks like won’t happen for a change.
I was up in Scotland prior to Christmas with our Account Manager, and spent the day cold-calling around a range of different shops: Garden Centres, farm shops, delicatessens convenience stores and food halls. It was a relatively quiet Monday in October from memory. Reflecting on that day and other similar “days out” later I was imagining being in a time capsule and going 5 or even 10 years back in time and asking how much would have changed? My fear is not too much. OK, there would have been lots of different products, but probably still merchandised in the same way. There may have been a larger café with more covers, but much the same food offering.
There is nothing wrong with sticking to ways of doing things that work, but speciality food retailers should be looking for new ideas and innovation continually – and not be complacent. Several years ago, there was massive growth amongst farm shops. They were the fastest growing retail sector in the UK at 17%. I have no idea what that figure is today, but a lot less than that. Someone said to be last week that farm shops need to get their “wow factor” back. I agree. There are many happening farm shops still, but there are some that think by having a shop in a rustic location and selling some of their own products is going to put them on the map. It may do, but the British public are notoriously fickle and always looking for the “What’s new”. They are looking for a sense of theatre. Some American retailers are fantastic at this and we could learn from them. But the traditional speciality food retailers need to keep innovating as other sectors are copying you and may overtake you.
What worked 5 years ago may not work as well in 2017. Even more so as the world seems to be changing at an ever-increasing speed.
See you in Scotland, or if not, Bracknell, Bristol and London soon afterwards where we have launch events.