Supporting co-operatives and social enterprises in rural communities worldwide, the Plunkett Foundation works directly with farmers markets, community networks, and artisan food producers, offering business advice and practical support and encouraging us all to shout a little bit louder about the unique selling points that set local retail apart from commercial enterprise. The unique selling point?
Directly connecting customer to producer.
In this informative blog, Plunketts’ project officers Ceinwen Lally and Nicole Hamilton outline some of the do’s and don’ts that may help local food retailers and farmer’s markets reach a wider audience.
1. Dare to be different! You’re not a supermarket, so don’t pretend to be. Your difference is something to be celebrated, and it’s the added services you offer that will set you apart.
- Create an area for children to play
- Install a seated area for weary shoppers (and bored men)
- Hosting special community events
- Fresh tastings that don’t look like they’ve sat on the counter all day long
- Ditch the ‘Dogs not allowed’ sign. Get a bowl and some dog food and make a thing of it.
- Install free wifi
2. Shout about the quality of your produce – instead of the over processed c*** they sell in supermarkets, allow shoppers to actually ‘taste the difference’.
3. Engage customers in a conversation about your produce. Passion is tangible and catches like wild fire. When it’s passed on, it almost always results in sales.
4. Make your farmshop or market place, a social place. Keep it buzzing by adding a café spot or tables that friends can meet to sit and chat at. By encouraging shoppers to linger you’ll entice them to buy more.
5. Customers often feel intimidated by products they’ve never seen, especially if they have no clue what to do with them. Offer tips, cooking demonstrations or recipe cards that educate and put them at ease.
6. Always sell the story. Where was it grown? What was its journey? Can you map it out? Who made the cake? Simple and cost effective point of sale and merchandising signage and black boards will help you label, so there’s no excuse for not providing customers with full information about the product.
7. Community matters. Supermarkets are crushing the life out of the high street; tap into local community networks and associations that champion and educate about shopping local. Extend your reach to beyond food groups engaging other local businesses too e.g many farmer’s markets have successfully invited local school and college students to volunteer and get involved.
8. We all love a straight talker. Be honest, clear and VISIBLE about difficult issues like refund policies. Customers are often ‘nervy’ about purchasing when they don’t know what to do if something goes wrong.
And a few Don’ts
1. Don’t forget to let people know where you’ll be in advance. People won’t be there if they don’t know about it, so send out emails or post fliers a couple days in advance. If you’re not yet on social networking sites like facebook or twitter, stop reading this and sign up today. They’re often the fastest way of communicating to your network of followers.
2. Don’t ignore presentation. In terms of retail display, create a stage for your products and remember that how you present it says as much about your brand as the products themselves. With prop shops, fruit crates, portable display units and shelving on wheels, it’s never been easier for farmers markets and pop-up shops to create the perfect experience wherever, whenever.
3. Don’t let your customer run out of money! High end offerings, like meats, cheese, wines, and hamper gifts are easier paid for by credit and debit cards, so invest in catering for these facilities.
4. Don’t leave goods unpriced. It’s an absolute no no! I will walk past your stall if I can’t see a price and research shows that I’m not alone. Your customer will not ask.
5. Don’t offer a limited range, the supermarkets offer choice so at the very least ensure you cover the basics and offer your customer options.
6. Don’t compromise on quality – customers will buy fresh produce that looks good enough to eat. So those flimsy carrot tops and wilted spinach? Remove them, or spray with water to keep them looking fresh.
And now for tip of the YEAR!
Ever heard of a Reverse Credit Scheme? Kirdford Village stores in West Sussex have taken the idea of offering customers a unique service they won’t find in a supermarket, that one step further. Customers are able to set up a cash account with which to purchase goods whenever they like. The account is replenished buy monthly standing order, cash or credit card. It does wonders for cash-flow and allows you to budget in advance. Hard cash sat in your coffers before a single item is purchased!
Helping rural communities through community-ownership and advice, to take control of the issues affecting them.
- Support rural communities looking to set up and run community-owned shops
- Help rural communities to set up a wide range of community-owned enterprises, social enterprises and co-operatives to provide vital rural services
- Enable community food and farming enterprises to set up and run successfully