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So 2020 did not turn out how we expected! 

When we launched in March 2020, we assumed that our business customers would be an even split between the on-trade and off-trade sectors.

Of course the on-trade sector has been particularly heavily hit by COVID-19, and the resulting lockdowns or restrictions.

Consequently, we have been focusing the majority of our attention at building our customer base in the speciality food and drink retail sector.

We are now the leading Craft Rum brand in Devon, with over 90 independent retailers in the specialty food and drink market stocking Devon Rum Company products.

In the off-trade sector, businesses are consistently reporting an upturn in sales as the effects of COVID-19 has drawn consumers to shop and support local.

Research by the Farm Retail Association (FRA) show Farm retailers across the UK reporting an unprecedented surge in new customers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A significant and growing number of these outlets hold alcohol licences and are a valuable addition to the potential customer list of ’essential retailers’. The FRA estimates that the UK’s network of farm shops has a combined turnover of more than £1.5bn

COVID-19 has led to a quarter of people surveyed increasing their use of farm shops and local producers this year

Farm retailers have transformed their businesses and played a key role supporting vulnerable people with local deliveries.

Research from leading rural insurer NFU Mutual shows that 40% of people plan to buy more from farm shops and local producers.

The support follows a huge increase in the number of people using farm shops during the COVID-19 pandemic. NFU Mutual’s research reveals that one in four people have used farm shops or local producers more in 2020.

Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Throughout the pandemic farm shops have provided a lifeline to local communities, sourcing vital supplies during shortages, delivering fresh produce to vulnerable people and helping to keep people’s spirits up with friendly service.”

“The rise of these rural retailers has been no mean feat. Many farm shops have worked round the clock transforming their business model to meet demand, such as introducing click and collect services. Staff have adapted from serving in farm shop cafes to processing and delivering online orders, and stores have redesigned their layouts to offer Covid-safe shopping experiences.”  

According to new research from NFU Mutual, supporting smaller, local businesses was the biggest reason people chose to buy from farm retailers and small producers over the pandemic. Fresher, better-quality produce was also rated highly, followed by the environmental benefits of buying local food. 

Rebecca Davidson added: “Promisingly, 40% of people say they will use farm shops and local producers more this Christmas and there are encouraging signs that these changes are here to stay.  In fact, a recent survey of our customers has revealed that shopping locally is the top permanent change they plan to make after the pandemic is over. There’s no better way to thank our farm shops and farmers for their hard work this year than by supporting them - not only over the festive season but into 2021 and beyond.”

Research from the Farm Retail Association (FRA) carried out in July found that 92% of farm retailers reported a significant rise in new customers since the first lockdown in March. As part of its ongoing support for farmers diversifying their businesses, NFU Mutual held a webinar earlier this year with the FRA on setting up a farm shop enterprise.

Jenny Rose, Manager of the Farm Retail Association, said: “We are hugely encouraged by the latest NFU Mutual research. Much of this success story has been a result of farm shops being able to replenish shelves which has helped establish them as reliable food suppliers, alongside shops providing a relaxed but Covid-safe environment for shopping which consumers find less chaotic than other retail settings.”

There are now thousands of farm shops and farmers selling produce directly from the farm gate.

Source: NFU Mutual, December 2020

Giles: Jan 2021