I remember writing a blog post a few years ago after spending three days at the NEC on a stand that was on the border of the Convenience Show and the Farm Shop & Deli Show. The piece was about the huge differences between those two worlds. I compared the passion and the interesting products within the farm shop and deli world with the sharp commercialism of the convenience sector and longed for cross-pollination between the two.
Since then, many more within the convenience sector have embraced products not available from their symbol group supply chain, and some of these, such as Ancoats General Store in Manchester, now have far more variety and interest for their customers. Some of these new age convenience stores look, in some parts of the store, more like a delicatessen or a health food shop than a convenience store. In fact, they are a combination of all three.
This cross-pollination is also starting to move in the other direction too. I went this weekend for the first time to the new look Gonalston Farm Shop, which is now a Budgens, as well as still feeling like a farm shop. The meat counter is still superb as are the fish and deli counters and shop look little different from the outside. Within the main shopping aisles there are now many more ‘normal’ shopping items, which would not have darkened the door previously. There are also cigarettes hidden below the counter to my surprise, although it has to be said I wouldn’t have known unless it was pointed out.
The store is now open earlier and remains open until 9pm. (It always seems odd to me that many farm shops shut just as people drive home from work and may have picked up some delicious food to eat that evening. Very strange.) This new age farm shop is attracting more shoppers, different shoppers and younger shoppers. Yes, there are a few old faithful’s that may have gone elsewhere, but the increase far outweighs the decrease and the turnover is massively up on the old-style farm shop. Could it be that more speciality food retailers need to re-think their operation and do things they would never have dreamed of years ago?