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Christmas shoppers seek comfort and joy from independent retailers and farm shops

  • NFU Mutual research reveals nine out of ten value ‘friendly service’ when it comes to shopping at farm shops and other independent retailers
  • Nearly a third (31%) of shoppers are using local independent retailers more than before the pandemic
  • 80% of those planning to use farm shops this Christmas want to support local businesses and the economy
  • 70% believe farm shops offer fresher, better quality produce and 66% are drawn by more sustainable foods with lower food miles
  • Forty-two percent want to help smaller businesses that may be struggling because of Covid
  • NFU Mutual Retail Specialist encourages shoppers to consider supporting local independents this Christmas

Starved of friendly contact after months of pandemic isolation, 90% of shoppers are craving the friendly service of local independent retailers, according to research released by commercial insurer NFU Mutual.

The research reveals that nearly a third (31%) are shopping with local independents more than before the pandemic, with 42% saying they want to support smaller businesses that may be struggling because of Coronavirus.

For nearly two thirds (64%) of shoppers, wanting to buy products from a specialist provider is also a key reason to seek out an independent store.

Richard Young, NFU Mutual Agent in Liskeard & St Austell’, said:

“It’s great to see that so many people love the friendly service that local shops provide. After a challenging Christmas for us all last year, a friendly shopping experience is what we’re all craving this festive season. With the pandemic driving up feelings of loneliness, independent local retailers are in a position to help our communities feel connected again.

“Survey respondents told us that genuine conversations, a more personal experience, building close relationships with staff and having a friendly catch up whenever they visit where all aspects of shopping locally that they valued. Others said visiting a local independent retailer gave them an opportunity to catch up with neighbours and friends whilst shopping.”

Farm shops have also enjoyed success over the pandemic, with 73% of people wanting to continue to support or use farm shops even more this Christmas. The main reason for doing so was to support local businesses and the economy over winter.

Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said:

“Christmas is all about spreading good cheer and farm shops provide that in abundance with friendly service, great locally grown produce and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s great to see so many people planning to use farm shops this Christmas after the huge amount of work they put in to stay open and rose to the challenge of massive demand through the pandemic lockdowns.

“People also rated the quality of goods on offer with 70% believing farm shops offer better, fresher produce and two thirds valuing the environmental benefits of sustainably produced goods with lower food miles.”

 

Richard added:

“Independent businesses are the fabric of our towns and villages and offer our communities a wealth of benefits. With many of these businesses having something truly special to offer their community, we’re encouraging consumers to consider shopping with local independent retailers this Christmas and beyond.”

Cornish Rock Gin and Trevathan Farm Shop are just two of the many businesses helping to make this Christmas special in Cornwall.

Cornish Rock Gin case study
George and Angie Malde own Cornish Rock Gin, a distillery near St Tudy, Bodmin. Offering a range of gins and rums inspired by the Cornish coast, the spirits are stocked in farm shops across Cornwall, as well as being a popular choice with local pubs and restaurants. George and Angie also have an online shop and travel to local fairs and events to sell their products directly to the public. Keen to offer something special for Christmas, the couple have developed a selection of gift options.

“The business started as a hobby. We took up gin making back in 2017 and slowly developed the taste we were aiming for. We handed some samples out to friends and family who were quick to come back for more!

“Pubs and restaurants that we visit locally were keen to hear more about our new hobby and try some samples too. Things quickly grew from there. We sold 500 bottles in our first month, and that’s now up to 6,000 a month.

“We developed our range of gins trying to capture the true ‘Spirit of Cornwall’ with locally sourced water, fresh botanicals and citrus fruits. This has expanded into other specialist and local items that you can’t get anywhere else. We have gift hampers, merchandise featuring designs of local landscapes, beautiful branded gin glasses and miniature taster selections.

“I’d estimate that around 90% of our sales are made locally, with the last 10% being online sales that are shipped further afield. I think the sense of local exclusivity gives the range a real identity that’s appealing to locals and visitors alike.  That’s the joy of shopping local – it gives you the chance to find and enjoy things you might otherwise have missed.”

Trevathan Farm Shop case study
Run by husband and wife team Jo and Mark Symons, Trevathan Farm is a family business in every sense of the word.

Mark is a sixth generation farmer overseeing 280 acres of land grazed by more than 300 sheep and South Devon cattle. The meat produced goes on to be sold in the shop and cooked in the on-site restaurant.

The bustling farm shop has evolved from a small ‘pick your own strawberries’ shed 25 years ago, to a permanent building stocking everything from meat and eggs to cheese, chutneys and jams.

Jo says the pandemic has really heightened people’s awareness of buying local.

She explains: “We really noticed that people appreciated what was on their doorstep and soon realised when they couldn’t buy everything they wanted in the supermarkets, there were more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways to shop closer to home.

“Local customers are incredibly important to us. We welcome a lot of visitors each year with many holidaymakers returning again and again, but we also have a very loyal local client base as well and we are there for them all year round.

“Christmas is a particularly busy period. We have lots of local groups such as the local WI coming in for their festive lunches and in the shop people can make up their own Christmas hampers. We also have Christmas trees and locally made wreaths on sale so it’s a lovely time for everyone.”