So, many of us will be off to the Farm Shop & Deli/National Convenience Show this week. I’m writing this on Sunday and will be off later today to help set up our stand. I thought it might be interesting for a moment to compare the three types of shops named in the title of this show: Farm Shops, Delis and Convenience stores. How are these three types of shops doing in the current retail landscape? And what can they learn from each other?

 

Remembering that my comments here are very subjective and based on what I have noticed through visiting shops and talking to retailers. First of all, farm shops. A few years ago, they were the UK’s fastest growing type of retailer at 17%. There were large numbers of new shops opening and everyone was talking about farm shops. This buzz has settled down and whilst there are still shop extensions happening and new stores opening, the growth has slowed down. Farm shops need to continue to innovate, not become complacent and continue to play their big trump card: education and connecting consumers with the source of their food. Trading at many farm shops is too skewed towards the end of the week and weekend, and it will be key for them to entice more shoppers in during the week for top-up shops. Children’s activity centres, child-friendly cafes and other add-ons will be key to this. One farm shop owner last year did say that he was considering turning his farm shop into a convenience-style shop.

 

Delicatessens have been hit hard by the increase of quality products (hams, cheeses, olives) in the discounters, and have an expectation from customers of being expensive and too margin hungry, or maybe they are not buying well enough. Too many of them are closed when customers may come in to treat themselves or buy something for that evening’s meal. To shut at 5pm or even 6pm is too early for people coming back from work wanting to pick something up for dinner.

 

Both delicatessens and farm shops I believe can learn a lot from convenience stores, which in London particularly, but also in other up-market areas, are becoming the “new deli”. Yes, they still have many of the cupboard essentials, but many are now stocking more premium lines in an attempt to differentiate themselves from the small-format supermarket stores they are often competing with. The owners of convenience stores are commercially savvy, always have promotions for their customers, are open for long hours and, in my view, have a huge opportunity in front of them. Interestingly, they are often run by a younger generation and possibly more in touch with Millennials, whereas the average age of farm shop and delicatessen owners tends to be a lot higher.

 

What better opportunity this week at the show to ensure that we take in the whole show including the forecourt area too, talk to those running different types of shops and learn from each other. See you there!