Collaboration 'key' to making most of farm shop boom

Farm shops have seen their popularity increase during the pandemic
Farm shops have seen their popularity increase during the pandemic

Collaboration with other likeminded businesses is key to those farmers who are making the most of the boom in farm shops, according to a retail expert.

Farm shops have seen a jump in new customers as 37% of people surveyed say they have shopped local for the first time during the pandemic.

Of these, 95 percent plan to continue shopping local wherever possible, according to NFU Mutual's research.

The insurer has now partnered with the Farm Retail Association (FRA) to help diversified farmers harness public support and thrive in the future.

Frank Woods, NFU Mutual's retail sector specialist, said at a recent FRA conference that farmers should work together to capitalise on this recent boost.

"Traditionally local competition has narrowed collaboration, but we’ve seen a shift as more retailers have pulled together to face challenges, including but not limited to the pandemic.

“Collaboration can be a real investment in your business’ future, with the potential to benefit elements like online presence, influence on local decision making and shop signage and appearance."

He said farmers could start by joining formal or informal networks in their local business community, working together to identify opportunities or overcome challenges.

For example, a 2020 campaign organised by the Canterbury Business Improvement District, #BuyLocalBlackFriday, encouraged residents to choose a local business for online purchases, promoting that many retailers had evolved to offer click & collect.

“It is initiatives like this that allow local retailers to work together to build both business and resilience,” Mr Woods said.

By adapting to changing customer needs throughout the pandemic, farm shops have seen their popularity increase.

They have provided a lifeline to local communities, sourcing supplies during shortages, and delivering fresh produce to vulnerable people.

Jenny Rose, manager at the FRA, said these businesses would be stronger together through measures such as knowledge sharing on a UK-wide level or working on a local level to support one another.

“Local collaboration can make all the difference – we’ve seen the sad demise of some high street giants recently," she said.

"As consumers continue to shift their focus towards ‘local’ it’s an ideal time to band together, capitalise on the movement and nurture this exciting new retail opportunity.”