Farm Shop & Deli Awards previous winners entries

Keelham Farm Shop: Retailer of the Year 2017
Arthur Howell: Retailer of the Year 2016
Johns of Instow and Appledore: Retailer of the Year 2015
Ardross Farm Shop: Retailer of the Year 2014

 

Keelham Farm Shop: Retailer of the Year 2017

What is your business mission?

We have developed an exciting and fresh retail concept which is delivering what customers want. Food shopping has become a battle of cost-cutting and, by putting customers and suppliers first, Keelham has created something truly different: a place where customers love to shop; where they can learn about food and discover something new. Keelham supports 400+ Yorkshire independent producers and farmers and the opening of our Skipton shop has allowed us to introduce to a new market all that our Thornton customers value, and more. In Skipton, we draw customers from afar and our shop has fast become a key destination at the Gateway to the Dales. We look after our environment and help customers to do that as well. 

How has your business grown year on year?

We serve over 19,000 happy customers a week and our team has grown from 56 in 2010 to 316 today, including 146 recruited for our second shop in Skipton which opened in June 2015. Sales have grown from £2m in 2006 to £16.8m in 2015/16 and in the current financial year, we forecast combined sales of around £21m. Our original and quirky range of "Taste Boxes" launched in 2014 meaning that our collections of Yorkshire foods reaches nationwide.Taste Boxes sales have grown from 2,200 in year one, increasing by nearly 400% in year two to 8,100 national sales, helped with our move into social media. In the last 3 years or so, we have grown our social media following to: Twitter - 6,600, Facebook - 17,000 likes, Instagram - 2,885. The business includes butchery, delicatessen, fruit & veg, bakery, flowers, activity barns; store-cupboard favourites and CAMRA-accredited beer. Skipton also has a juice bar, showcasing tasty, healthy ways to use seasonal ingredients and we have been able to get much closer to our customers' taste-buds with the opening of Keelham Kitchen - serving as a "tasting room" for the shop - which in year one has turned over £1m.

What is your unique contribution to a sustainable future?

Keelham's sustainable business model has been designed to support the company's belief that great-tasting, fresh food and ingredients should be available for everybody, every day. We have created our own approach to food retail, learning stealthily from our 40+ years' origins as a small, family farm and shop. Today Keelham is a significant regional business that is making a positive. We really do make a difference for the local community, and we believe that we are a dynamic example of community and commercial working together. Last year we supported 200+ hugely varied local events, which saw the team giving both time and resources to help with community work, fundraising and education, focusing on schemes associated with young people, healthy eating and the environment. We are helping to put Yorkshire on the national map through numerous award wins, including Observer Food Monthly "Best Independent Retailer"and last year, together with a Leeds design agency, we won a coveted DBA Design Effectiveness Gold Award for our roll-out of the brand. Our approach has been commended by a number of industry bodies.

How do you select the suppliers and products you sell?

We have always enjoyed a two-way relationship with our customers and they give us great feedback about products and the kinds of things that we could offer to make their food shopping and meal preparation better. Customers have contributed ideas for many new recipes and they vote every year on our team's own product ideas in the Keelham Awards. In the shops, we have frequent demonstrations of new recipes for customers to try and regular opportunities to meet suppliers and taste new products, always encouraging our customers to tell us what they think. Our customers want to feed their families the best quality food and ingredients that they can and we are always searching for new suppliers for them. Because we stock produce from over 400 Yorkshire farms and producers, we have a really strong network. We visit the local marts and markets every week and take part in as many community events as we can where we might meet new producers. As a result, potential suppliers approach us all the time. For us, taste is the ultimate test but just because it's local, doesn't mean we will stock it. We will go the extra mile to help suppliers when we know that we can make a difference, supporting them to improve their products where we can.

How do you ensure your staff are knowledgeable and passionate about your business and the products they sell?

With the opening of 'Skipton' our butchery team has expanded to 31 full-time butchers. Opportunities to train have also increased, and we've taken on four apprentices, recognising the importance of investing in the trade to ensure that traditional skills are passed down to the next generation. We create rewarding jobs and quality training, in an environment where everybody's ideas are valued. We ask new recruits about their favourite food and everyone who works at Keelham is passionate about turning great ingredients into tasty, affordable meals. We have introduced product champions who are responsible for training the team in their product; liaising with our marketing team; suggesting new products; visiting suppliers and passing on customer insight back to the team. Our customers know, when they ask the team questions about ingredients and preparing food, that they will give a knowledgeable response. We train our butchers and fruit & veg teams in cookery, so that they can give customers the best advice about cooking at home. Teams from the shop sections compete in our annual Robertshaw Awards which acknowledge team members' contributions to caring for our planet, the local community and for making our team and customers smile.

How do you continue to develop the relationship with your community?

We sell produce from individual suppliers, unique to each shop, and our managers work closely with local people, to ensure that our work is authentic and helpful to each community.
Last year we supported 200+ hugely varied local events, including: feeding artists at Grassington Festival; apprentice butchers taking part in a mascot race, raising £9,000 for Manorlands local hospice; hosting 50 school+ visits; sponsoring beef classes for young farmers at local agricultural shows - helping to keep alive a vital part of the farming community; taking healthy eating smoothie-making demonstrations to local community centres; providing pit stops for local bike rides and beer for local community festivals; a Roald Dahl birthday party with Settle Stories and at Christmas Santa arrives tractor-style and all profits from Santa's grotto are given to Candlelighters.


The Thornton shop is a regular feature of local school life and our free animal croft is popular with schoolchildren and families. We offer customers' children free fruit and we run a free bus service for 80+ people per week - a service that we also are trialling in Skipton.  

How do you layout your store and merchandise with your customer in mind?

A walk around Keelham is a journey of discovery. We provide photos and details about the suppliers whose products are for sale and information about ingredients to help customers to learn about local food and to make informed choices. Wherever we can, we let customers see the butchers and bakers at work, close to where they will buy the fruits of their labours. At Keelham shopping is fun and we try to introduce wherever we can a "wow"moment throughout the shop to help customers enjoy their experience with us. In Skipton, where we have more space, we have even been able to install in the shop a bright red tractor from the Robertshaw's farm, as well as a floor-to-ceiling living wall of green plants. Our customers like to choose as little or as much as they need and we have introduced a scoop-your-own section for more than 70 different cooking ingredients and a juice bar bearing the legend, "Five a Day is for Wimps". We're always thinking of ways we can be helpful for our customers and currently are rethinking the way we present fresh meat, responding to customers' needs, e.g. stir-fry, roast, braise, stew - rather than by animal or by cut of meat.

What sets you apart from your competition?

There's a food revolution taking place in Yorkshire and Keelham is leading the way, making available at affordable prices some of the best fresh food products from across the region. 75% of what Keelham sells is fresh produce, compared with 25% in large supermarkets and stores. By putting taste and affordability first every time and by being innovative with ideas like the Veg Exchange Scheme, Keelham helps to put good food on more people's tables, more often.


"Local"couldn't be closer at Keelham. The Thornton shop is located on our farm which means that lamb bought from the shops may well have been bred and reared by the family. We believe that "Food Tastes Better From The Farm" - a phrase prominently displayed at the shop's entrance. Keelham keeps prices keen without compromising on quality: the majority of farmers whose animals we buy are from within a 20-mile radius of the shops and we buy weekly from Skipton and Otley auction marts. Meat-related products are hand crafted in our butchery department, serving up high quality food at prices that represent exceptional value for money.


At Keelham, great-tasting, affordable fresh food isn't for special occasions. We aim to be useful and inspirational, making food shopping fun.

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Arthur Howell: Retailer of the Year 2016


What is your business mission?

Arthur Howell's business mission is to provide the highest quality, locally sourced meat, fish, bread, cakes and delicatessen produce to his ever increasing number of discerning customers, who include the many thousands of holidaymakers who visit north Norfolk every year as well as the people who live in the towns and villages his shops serve.

How has your business grown year on year?

Arthur's business plan is simple - it is based on the need to continually diversify in order to grow his customer base and provide stability and security for his family and the people he employs, who number more than 30. Arthur believes an ability to react quickly to changing customer demands and business opportunities is far more important than adhering rigidly to a written 'business plan'. Until fairly recently Arthur Howell was known as an established family butchers with a reputation for excellence, which had grown steadily since Arthur’s great grandfather founded the business in 1889. But in the last few years Arthur has diversified by opening a bakery, fishmongers shop and a delicatessen to provide a much needed boost to the local economy. No other business in East Anglia can claim to have diversified so quickly, and successfully, to meet such a rapidly changing business environment.


What is your unique contribution to a sustainable future?

Sustainability in the modern age means having a business which is environmentally sound as well as successful. The business currently employs around 30 people and has an annual turnover in excess of £1.5m. The vast majority of the meat Arthur supplies is sourced from within a 30-mile radius, which means the firm’s carbon footprint and ‘food miles’ ratio are both very low. Over the past year the sustainability of the business has increased by expansion through its increased involvement in outside catering events, such as the supply and staffing of hog roasts for local clubs, societies, functions and private parties. Arthur has also recently taken over the joint running of the Tea Rooms at Houghton Hall, currently hosting an exhibition by the American lighting artist William Turrell which is attracting thousands of visitors to north Norfolk.

How do you select the suppliers and products you sell?

Arthur takes great pride in the quality of his meat, much of which is butchered at the firm’s own abattoir behind his headquarters at the Wells butcher shop. The vast majority of the meat Arthur supplies is sourced from within a 30-mile radius of his HQ in Wells. This means he can guarantee sourcing meat from farms that look after their animals and have the same high standards of animal welfare as he does. He supplies beef from Mark Harrisons herd at Stiffkey, lambs from Chris Lakey at Briston and Bob Fletcher at Houghton St Giles and pigs from Tim Allen of South Creake. The vast majority of the whole chickens supplied by Arthur are sourced from farms in Norfolk and Suffolk and his venison comes from the nearby estates of Holkham, Houghton and Gunton. Arthur smokes his bacon in his own purpose-built smokehouse behind the firm’s original Binham shop. He also runs his own bakery production unit which runs throughout the night to provide fresh bread and cakes daily.


How do you ensure your staff are knowledgeable and passionate about your business and the products they sell?

Arthur's staff are local people who understand the local economy. Arthur makes sure that all his staff are on first name terms with his suppliers from the local farming community, who visit his Wells shop on a regular basis due to him operating his own abattoir. His shop front staff know their regular customers through living in the local community and take a keen interest on where holidaymakers visiting the town come from. They know the names of the vast majority of their customers and what they like and don't like. Banners displayed at all of Arthur's retail outlets reinforce the message regarding the local nature of his suppliers. Staff receive a generous discount on all products purchased from the firm and are treated to an annual Christmas dinner at Arthur's expense. New employees are given traditional ‘on the job’ supervisory training in addition to online food hygiene and HACCP training.


How do you continue to develop the relationship with your community?

In addition to donating hog roasts to help fund-raise for the town’s historic War Memorial Institute Club Arthur also has close links with the Alderman Peel High School in Wells, whose catering and hospitality students he has hosted on numerous occasions in order to help their studies by demonstrating how meat is brought to his abattoir and slaughtered before being butchered in readiness for the customer. Last year Arthur worked closely in an advisory capacity with the students throughout a school project which culminated in them laying on a dinner for teachers and parents at The Crown Hotel. Arthur also recently paid for former England and Ipswich Town striker Trevor Whymark to run a day-long coaching session for the school’s football team at their School Olympics event. He is additionally a member of the Wells Lighting Committee, which funds the erection of Christmas lights in the town every year, and has recently joined the organising committee for the eight-day Wells Christmas Tide Festival, another event aimed at boosting the local economy and enhancing the ‘Wells experience’ for visitors to the town.


How do you layout your store and merchandise with your customer in mind?

Arthur's staff are encouraged to change their shop displays on a daily basis in order to showcase special offers and new produce items. Traditional chalk A-boards are used as they are the most effective way of highlighting customer opportunities to pedestrian footfall and oils, sauces and marinades are placed in close proximity to the meats they are best suited to. As well as the traditional advertising platforms (local newspapers, magazines, community publications, flyers etc.) Arthur also utilises social media to promote his business, operating a regularly updated Twitter account (nearly 2,000 followers) and Facebook account (415 likes). He also promotes his business through his many appearances alongside local hotelier and north Norfolk-based chef Chris Coubrough in cookery theatre demonstrations at events such as the Royal Norfolk Show, East Anglian Game Fair and Holkham Country Park. Arthur has also made a number of appearances on BBC Norfolk, giving advice on how to cook turkeys for pre-Christmas programmes and commenting on butchery and general food-related matters.


What sets you apart from your competition?

Arthur Howell does it all. A well-established traditional butcher with four generations of expertise under his belt he has diversified into the bakery, deli and fishmongery sectors, saving those businesses in a town where local shops were recently placed under threat due to the arrival of the first supermarket. He is at the very heart of his local community, creating full-time jobs for local people in an area where the seasonal nature of employment can make things tough and interacting with his local residents on every age level through appearing at high profile events, engaging with local schoolchildren and through the use of social media to promote a sustainable, environmentally friendly business which makes a real contribution to the local economy. In a time when the words 'food hero' are bandied about relentlessly, Arthur is someone who genuinely deserves the title.

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Johns of Instow and Appledore: Retailer of the Year 2015

What is your business mission?

With a dedicated team working alongside us, we are Johns of Instow & Appledore! The 4th generation of our family business which started trading in the 1940s, we're very proud to be at the helm of our award winning company in the 2 community villages of Instow & Appledore on the Torridge estuary. In Instow (the original store) we operate a deli, butchers, grocers, Post Office, beach kiosk and newspaper/home delivery service. Across the river in Appledore we run a deli, café, grocers and Post Office. We're described as the heart of the community in both villages and have become renowned with locals and visitors for championing local, quality produce delivered with a personal, friendly service. We have thriving deli kitchens in Instow and Appledore producing our own range of homemade produce to sell in our popular delis and café, at local markets, corporate events and private parties for all occasions. Our mission is to consistently deliver high quality produce and services to our customers in North Devon and further afield, whilst adapting to changes in consumer needs, supporting our communities, producers and networks in the local area and making a profit. To meet this goal, we strive as a team to nurture these values in all aspects of the Johns brand and in all locations:  Supply and use local, quality, great value produce as much as possible, Develop a friendly, happy, motivated, knowledgeable team trained in quality customer service, Create a welcoming, pleasant and user friendly shopping environment, Ensure a unique, flexible, personal and highly satisfying shopping experience for our customers, Maintain strong communication links with our customers, producers & suppliers both in person and via digital media to promote seasonal specials, offers and new products/services/events, Encourage our customers, colleagues, suppliers and partners to give feedback, make suggestions and engage in development ideas, Strengthen existing and build new partnerships with local producers/businesses as well as artisan and independent producers/suppliers across the UK and Purchase and deliver cost-effective and eco-friendly products and processes for the benefit of our customers and the environment.

 

How has your business grown year on year?

The Johns family started trading in Instow in the 1940s as a traditional grocer. This store has expanded over the years to include a successful deli, butchers, Post Office & beach hut. In 2009 we expanded and opened a 2nd store in Appledore, almost a mirror image of the Instow store but without a butchers. In 2012 we acquired a 2nd building in Appledore enabling us to double the size of our deli and grocers to meet demand and we opened our first café. In 2013, we developed again by taking Johns out to the customer this time by becoming a stallholder at local food markets and shows. Growth within our business is key to our success and to manage this we produce a rolling 5 year forecast including targets and budgets. Sales and purchase data is compared to forecasts on a 4 weekly basis. Monitoring and analysing activity on our website, Facebook & Twitter pages enables us to adjust our marketing strategy to the target consumer profiles for these accounts and more detailed analysis could still be done here by us. We invested in the equivalent of an additional full-time team member in each deli plus an additional temporary staff member for the seasonal periods. Our growth was 16% on the previous year.  For the 2014/2015 financial year our sales growth has been set at 7%.  We believe Johns has an amazing opportunity to grow further over the coming years and are looking at a production unit to ensure increased availability of fresh, homemade products along with new and exciting lines. Our online shop on our revamped website will be launched this Autumn selling a selection of local and regional products and hampers/welcome packs/gifts with the emphasis on local & West country produce. 

 

What is your unique contribution to a sustainable future?

Each year within our business strategy, we aim to become more sustainable than in the previous year through natural evolution along with conscious decision making to support a sustainable future. Our sustainability policy is to purchase and provide goods and services that are local, eco-friendly and from sustainable sources wherever possible. The completion of processes in line with this policy is integral to staff training and day-to-day operations. To reduce carbon footprint we pride ourselves in supporting the largest number of local producers in North Devon bringing our customers produce that hasn?t travelled for miles. Branded goods come from only a handful of distributors and mostly from the South West. We utilise local businesses for equipment and services supporting fellow local traders and minimising the carbon footprint. With these longstanding partnerships we?re often able to communicate on the telephone or via e-mail avoiding travel altogether. We have refined our home delivery service to meet customer needs and to ensure delivery to the local community and businesses in an efficient, timely manner to reduce the carbon footprint. This year we even have a seasonal ticket to support the local Appledore & Instow ferry from April to October which is used by staff to travel to work and for the transportation of ambient supplies - an incredibly eco-friendly method of transport! In addition to the ferry, our colleagues are encouraged to walk, cycle, car share or use public transport to get to work. The increased use of intangible services has been a major sustainability development at Johns through the daily use of digital media with our customers and suppliers, primarily through e-mail, social media and our website. A monthly e-newsletter to over 1500 customers and social media posts/tweets include links to our website for downloadable recipes and information about forthcoming events for example, negating the need for paper and other associated factors such as postal services. This year we made the investment to transfer the majority of our packaging and shopping bags in all forms over to eco-friendly products. For the few remaining items we're simply waiting for the packaging companies to create eco-friendly products that are fit for purpose. For our online webshop (due for launch this Autumn) our eco-friendly packaging has been created by a local company from sustainable sources. Consumables are eco-friendly wherever possible. Other sustainable processes including recycling of paper, cardboard, glass and plastics which makes an enormous contribution to sustainability in view of the packaging on high stock volumes received in our delis, café and grocery stores. Equally so does the use of low energy lighting throughout our premises. Our commitment to recruiting staff from the local area and the current exploration of apprenticeships in our business contributes to a sustainable future for the local community. In the forthcoming year, we will need to replace one of our delivery vans and it is our intention to ensure this vehicle will be environmentally friendly. Similarly, we are searching for a production unit nearby and, in terms of sustainability, the greatest benefits will be increased storage so fewer deliveries from suppliers and the opportunity to lease the most up-to-date energy efficient equipment.

 

How do you select the suppliers and products you sell? 

At Johns, we're proud to support the greatest number of local producers in North Devon with over 200 products in our stores. Sourcing local and regional produce has become synonymous with our brand particularly the fresh produce in our delis, café and butchery along with a growing range of ambient produce. In general we have found that local producers are as passionate about their products as we are about offering them to our customers. In more recent years, we have become producers ourselves with small kitchens in both our delis and the sales growth in homemade produce using quality and where possible local/West country ingredients has been phenomenal. Our commitment to the promotion of local produce has extended this year through attendance at local markets as a stallholder. With the growth of online retailers, the increase of local producers selling direct to customers at markets and the continued extension of supermarkets to include speciality foods in their stores, the challenge for product selection has become greater as a speciality retailer but also more rewarding. Involving our customers in store has always formed part of our product selection policy but this has now extended to other means; speaking to customers at local markets gives new opportunities to learn which products they enjoy most and would like to see at Johns. Similarly we actively seek comments via social media and review customer feedback on Tripadvisor. It has become a pastime of ours to meet producers at local markets, to attend trade shows locally and further afield eg, the Farm Shop & Deli Show at the NEC. The quality of the product is consistently tested as we use the products ourselves along with our team and our customers, which means that on rare occasions of a quality issue it will be highlighted and discussed with the local producer/supplier with whom we have built up a personal relationship. Further demonstration of our commitment to sourcing local produce is our membership this year with the new North Devon Small Producers Alliance. We have a stand alongside these producers at the monthly Barnstaple Real Food Market and have introduced new local products in our stores through this networking. 

 

How do you ensure your staff are knowledgeable and passionate about your business and the products they sell?

The success of people management in our business we believe starts with our own passion and motivation to run our business. We're very hands-on owners which involves time each week working on the shop floor alongside our team so that our enthusiasm spreads! This enables us to practise our culture of open communication and to demonstrate that everyones role in our business is equally important. It creates natural opportunities to lead by example through our chosen leadership styles of engagement, involvement and nurture. We can understand from colleagues whats currently important to each of them and encourage them to share their ideas for operational improvement and innovation in the business. The recruitment and selection of our team members requires individuals who love food & drink and value high standards of service as customers themselves. We too will give praise and support on a personal level. We work with our team to help them to understand performance, developments and products. This makes them informed, involved and motivated. Telling our team the story about a product/producer to aid their learning and also enhance their product knowledge when talking to customers. This is particularly effective when an individual through a dietary or personal choice is unable to taste a product. Point of sale material is designed to inform the customer of the provenance and detail of a product but also to aid a member of the team if they need a quick reminder in view of the large range of products that we sell! Our staff are rewarded with constant feedback from their line manager and us when something has been done well - it's great when this includes compliments from customers too. Staff are highly motivated when an idea they have shared is put in place by us, which is why taking the time to gather feedback is so valuable. We have just started to introduce champions in our stores which utilises the strengths of individuals and gives them enhanced job satisfaction. It also enables colleagues from different departments to steer customers to the relevant champion. We always throw a party at Christmas for our team plus their partners and this year we had a party to celebrate our award wins too

 

How do you continue to develop the relationship with the community?

Johns of Instow & Appledore exists through the support of the local communities with its customers, suppliers and members of our dedicated team. Described as the heart of the villages, we enjoy being able to give something back to the people and organisations within them wherever possible. Sponsorship or donations of time, prizes and premises to the local community is a key component of our business. Anthony is a member of the Instow Parish Council and also attends the Appledore Visitor Association (AVAs) meetings where developments in the villages are discussed. We always sponsor the Instow & Appledore regatta and have extended our sponsorship commitment this year to the Appledore & Instow ferry, the Appledore Book Festival and the Appledore carnival. For the 2nd year running we're a main sponsor at the annual food and drink event Foodfest in Barnstaple Pannier Market with a footfall of approx 14k. The most heartwarming achievement so far this year in the 2 villages was the overwhelming support from locals for the Easter chicks and bunnies knitted by the Instow and Yelland WI in aid of the North Devon Hospice. We sold these in both locations with all proceeds going to charity - an amazing £835.31 was raised. Each year we work with the local primary schools. One of our proudest moments this year was when 2 of our team gave their time to do facepainting for children visiting Instow beach over the regatta weekend. The North Devon Small Producers Alliance was formed earlier this year and we became members. The greatest achievement of the group to date is to run monthly food markets for the local communities in Barnstaple Pannier Market. We will be taking part in the Worlds Biggest Coffee Morning again this September donating our café and cakes giving locals the chance to meet in memory of friends and family with proceeds going to Macmillan. We have introduced a community notice board in our Instow shop which is always in use and plan to do the same in Appledore. It?s always an honour in our Appledore grocers to display the race cups each year ahead of the Instow & Appledore regatta. Support through social media - Its great to be able to use our Facebook and Twitter pages to encourage support for local community events and organisations. Through our award wins we?ve built up some local press contacts as well as links we've established with local tourism groups so it always feels great when through social media we manage to reach a wider audience for community events. Examples this year include the Instow School Summer Fayre, Appledore Summer Festival, Instow & Appledore regatta and the Barnstaple Real Food Market. 

 

How do you layout your store and merchandise with your customer in mind? 

With 3 shops, a beach hut, market stalls, a website (soon to have an online shop too), a monthly e-newsletter and social media pages on Facebook and Twitter, we aid our customers by keeping consistent and repetitive merchandising throughout. Whilst each outlet has its own individuality, the thread of our branding in all locations helps customers to connect the quality products to our flagship delis & grocers in Instow and Appledore. This branding is maintained on any literature that we produce or images placed on local producer websites or community events with which we?re involved. We link our stores in Instow & Appledore with traditional external blinds with our now familiar branding. To keep consistency and familiarity for our customers in our sales locations we display goods in/on the same units, for example our homemade cakes are presented on cake stands and locally made wooden boards in both our delis and at markets. Similarly fresh fruit and vegetables are in wooden crates in both grocery stores. Equally important is that all team members wear the same uniform to give a corporate identity. In our delis, customers are greeted with freshly baked bread displays, self-service olive counters, serve over deli counters bursting with local, regional, British & international cheeses, our homemade quiches/pâtés/coleslaw and award winning pork pies. When customers walk into our grocers they're greeted with fresh fruit and vegetable displays followed with the everyday essentials needed to make meals and serve their householdWe work hard in all of our shops and café to ensure that pathways are kept clear to maintain the flow we've created and to enable shoppers to browse individually, with a partner or as a family. We're conscious to keep floors clear to enable a pleasant shopping experience for all including those with buggies and wheelchairs. This equally applies to the outside of our stores where we ensure that people with dogs or bicycles can leave these safely outside without causing an obstruction to other shoppers. Our signage again is consistent wherever we promote our produce including the outside of our stores and digital media. It's designed to include our branding or we use blackboards with white handwriting. The seasonal displays may link to a UK celebration eg, Christmas or national chocolate week, or a local event eg, the Appledore & Instow Regatta with an emphasis on local picnic food for the event.

 

What sets you apart from your competition? What is your niche and why do you think you should win?

Our USP is continually meeting the existing and changing needs of the consumer by maintaining our mission to deliver local, quality products and services with personal customer service tailored to the individual. We use our core values to introduce (and to a degree experiment with) new, exciting and often unique shopping experiences satisfying a wider audience. Trust in our brand has become an increasingly important factor of our USP as has consistent customer involvement. By encouraging customers to give feedback and involving them along with our team to develop products and services has set us apart and contributed to another strand of our successful USP. We are a foodie destination, a one-stop shop with quality produce, creation of a pleasant shopping experience with a personal one-to-one service. The opportunity in Appledore to sit in our award winning café for breakfast, coffee, lunch or afternoon tea to sample local and homemade produce is the icing on the cake! Our success is like a recipe with a list of ingredients creating a winning combination! We are the largest retailer in North Devon of local and regional produce including local cheeses, Devon smoked fish & seafood, award winning charcuterie, cooked meats, fresh meat, fruit & vegetables and a foodie lover?s dream of ambient produce from artisan producers! In addition, our USP has strengthened with our initiative to develop our own range of homemade produce. Add to all this a wide offering of staple grocery products, free tastings, inspirational recipe ideas and a wealth of recommendations from our team, you really can get everything you need for every day and entertaining at great value from Johns! We're also launching a new pop up concept in our café this Autumn one evening a month whereby we invite a local street food producer to take over our kitchen for 1 night only! The first event takes place in September with award winning Seadog who like us pride themselves on using local produce especially fish caught in local waters and we're delighted to have sold some tickets already.  Following customer demand, this October sees our online shop go live on our website enabling customers to purchase local produce from Johns of Instow & Appledore from the comfort of their own home/on their mobile device.

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Ardross Farm Shop: Retailer of the Year 2014

What is your business mission?

Our mission is to create a profitable and sustainable business through farming. 

In order to achieve this, the farm has to:

  • Use a combination of both old and new farming techniques to create the best system for farming in a sustainable way. 
  • Move to a breed of cattle which are good mothers, graze extensively and require little interference from us and which also provide first class meat to sell through the shop
  • Supply as much of the vegetables sold through the shop as possible. 

The shop has to:

  • Employ enthusiastic food lovers with a passion for working with people
  • Provide the best possible service at all times
  • Inspire customers to cook, use local ingredients and experiment
  • Ensure any products bought in are from small artisan producers with similar values
  • At all times listen to customer feedback and grow the business in response to this.
  • Interact with our customers in as many ways as possible including online, attending local meetings, working with children etc

How has your business grown year on year?

Since the shop opened in 2005 our business has consistently met and exceeded targets year on year even in the face of recession. Every year we have exceeded our targets for turnover, over the past 2 years we have seen a 12% and 16% increase from previous years and this year we are on track for a 22% increase. Our number of customers has also grown, last year we had over 105,000 people through our door, this looks set to increase again this year. Our average basket size has also increased.

Our online presence has increase along with this with over 1090 facebook followers, nearly 900 Twitter followers and a new venture into Pinterest.  

In comparison to other businesses in our sector we are doing very well. While most businesses struggled to maintain momentum during the recession we still increased basket size, customer numbers and over all turnover.

What is your unique contribution to a sustainable future?

Our aim is to create a sustainable future in every part of our business.  

Our cattle:

  • We have moved to a new breed of cattle called Stabilisers. These cattle are a composite breed where the best attributes of four traditional breeds have been mixed to create a well rounded breed. We have closed our herd which means that we do not bring any cattle from other farms onto our farm. This means that we can control disease a lot easier.  These cattle are fantastic mothers and every single one gave birth on their own this year. Without interference from us it means the cow doesn’t suffer any internal problems and it reduces the risk of infection. The cow is also able to get back to her feet more quickly and care for her calf. The calves that our Stabilisers have are small and so easier for the cow to give birth to however they grow very fast once up on their feet. 

  • We create a calm environment or the cattle. Nobody shouts and screams at the cattle and our men walk through them on a daily basis so they are used to people and don’t get stressed. In a time of commercial farming many animals only see machines and are unused to human handling. We also leave the radio on in the sheds if the cattle are inside so they are accustomed to voices. Radio 4 is their favourite at the moment.

  • We work very closely with our local vet who has created a High Health Plan for the cattle. Through this we have achieved a sharp reduction in the use of medication. So low we are currently the company with the lowest usage of drugs for our herd size in our practice.

  • Instead of covering our cattle in chemicals to keep flies away we use garlic licks. The cattle love them and the flies don’t.

  • We sow different varieties of clover in the grass fields which fixes nitrogen in the soil; this reduces the need for artificial fertilisers.

  • Our cattle are grass fed instead of fed cereals. There has been a lot of research into the differences between the two ways of feeding. The most pressing issue for us is that the percentage of saturated fats (bad fat) in grass fed beef is a low lower meaning that our meat is better for our customers.

Our vegetables:

  • We use a traditional five year rotation of crops on our farm so that the vital nutrients needed for growing our crops are replaced and the soil remains fertile.

  • We are not an organic farm however we use the best of old and new techniques to grow our vegetables rather than just spraying constantly.

  • We grow most of the vegetables sold in the shop from seed in our polytunnels.

  • Dung from our cattle is put back onto the soil to replace nutrients.

  • If the vegetables cut for the shop are not sold then they are either fed to our cattle or composted and put back onto our fields.

Our shop:

  • 99% of the products sold in our shop are produced in Britain. The majority of that from our local area. Working with local companies is the foundation of our business. Putting money back into our local community means that we are creating jobs and money within our area. This obviously in turn means that people have more money to spend with us. 

  • We spend time with local and international groups giving them tours of the farm and an insight into what we do behind the scenes. 

  • All of the polystyrene boxes and ice received in deliveries from couriers are recycled by giving them for free to local businesses or to our customers to use for long journeys.

  • All of the cardboard we use in the shop is gathered and recycled.

  • We have bee hives on the farm which ensures pollination of local crops and also supplies us with local honey which is very popular.

How do you select the suppliers and products you sell?

Everything we sell in our shop is tried and tested by our family, staff or customers. First and foremost the products which we sell in the shop have all been requested by customers. Our business is purely driven by customer demand and so if we are asked for a product more than three times we will source it. Behind the till we keep a folder with a section entitled ‘What we say no to’. Anytime a member of staff says no to a customer it is noted down so we can keep track of customer demands. 

The criteria for selection of products to do into our store is:

  • First and foremost the product needs to be of the upmost quality once tried by either the family, staff or customers. 

  • Secondly the product needs to be produced by a small artisan producer with similar values to ourselves. We deal directly with our suppliers so on a weekly basis we order from over 170 independent producers. Keeping in contact with our suppliers is very important to us as we hear first hand of any new products launching, changes in values or awards our suppliers have won.  

  • Thirdly, as much as possible we deal with local suppliers. Local is very important to us however it has to be quality.

  • As we deal with very few companies from outside the UK therefore we are assured of their ethics however for products such as bananas which our customers asked for we sell Fair Trade. We do stock organic products but the reason we stock them is not because they are organic but rather because they are fantastic products. We believe if a product has been produced to high welfare standards by small companies with similar values then being organic is not as important as the quality.

How do you ensure your staff are knowledgeable and passionate about your business and the products they sell?

When advertising for new staff the first thing that we ask for is a passion for food. With an interest in food as a basis most staff have a genuine interest in what we do from the beginning. As part of our induction all staff members spend time with every different aspect of our business. On day two they spend an afternoon with Rob, the owner, going around the cattle, visiting the rest of the farm, meeting our farm staff and depending on the time of year getting a chance to ride on the combine harvester or tractor. On day three Andrew, our vegetable grower, takes new staff out to the field and walks them through the vegetable department showing them everything from the seeds in the polytunnels to the end results in the fields. Fiona then spends the afternoon with them in the commercial kitchen showing them what we do and what products we make.  

Every member of staff is given extensive training on customer service both internally from their supervisor and externally using a company who has similar ideals as we do. We explain to new members of staff about the mystery shopper who visits us once a month and work through the report explaining what is expected of them. We have also on a number of occasions taken our staff to other shops and undertaken our own mystery shopping. When back as a group every person feeds back their experiences on each shop.  

We have just begun to divide the shop up into different areas and give each member of staff a different area to specialise in. For example, Grant who is in charge of the wine section has been on a number of wine courses and is now in charge of picking ‘Wine of the Week’, food pairing and ordering new wines. This has really driven his enthusiasm for that department and as a result sales have increased dramatically whilst giving more information to customers and other staff. A different staff member is responsible for our overall ‘Product of the Week’ and it is their responsibility to research and write a little bit for it for the board. 

As often as possible we take staff to visit producers. This year we have been to the strawberry farm and picked strawberries in the tunnels, visited the local cheese farm and watched how the cheese was made. Last year all of our staff went to visit the free range turkey, chicken and duck farm and also attended the BBC Good Food Show in Glasgow and were booking into all of the local food talks for the day. 

If we get a good mystery shopping report the person who was assessed gets a bonus. All of our staff who worked over the summer are going to the BBC Good Food Show as a thank you and everyone gets Christmas presents after working hard over the festive period.

How do you continue to develop the relationship with the community?

Working with the local community is very important to us and we do a number of things in the local community: 

  • Nikki, the manager, is vice chair of the Local Tourism Association.
  • Numerous members of staff are on different committees such as the local Sea Queen Day committee, football team and tennis club.
  • We provide burgers at cost to the local fairs over the summer time and give a member of staff to help with the stalls
  • We sell many local books about the area or poetry by local people with the money going to good causes in the local area.
  • We give our loft space free to any local people wanting to host an event so we have had craft events, art exhibitions and childrens book stalls to name a few.
  • We buy vegetables from local people and schools. This Autumn we bought 45kg of Discovery apples from one man, 30kg of Victoria plums from another and much more.
  • We help with the local Food Festival and advertise other local events on the walls behind our tills.
  • We give vegetables for free to numerous coffee mornings and school stalls.
  • We give talks to the WRI and to sheltered housing complexes.
  • We also visit schools and let children try some of our vegetables and other produce.
  • We give tours around our farm to anyone who would like to know more about what we do.

How do you layout your store and merchandise with your customer in mind? 

We have created a natural flow through our shop by taking our customers on a journey moving from vegetables and fruit through meats and ready meals to milk and cheeses then biscuits, jams preserves and finally around to sweets, puddings and snacks. Hopefully as customers move through the shop they are also moving through the different courses of the meal that they are planning.  

The first thing that customers see is our ‘A’ frame board with product of the week or any other important messages in the car park. As the customer comes into the shop the next sign states clearly our aim and information about the vegetables they are buying. Above each section is a black board with information about the producers and products above. All of our signage is in black with white chalk pen writing so it is consistent. Every piece of literature has our logo and strap line ‘…for food lovers!’ on it.  

At different times of the year we create attractive displays attracting people to different things such as summer salads, Christmas hampers or pumpkins.  Currently we have a beautiful display of locally sourced apples, pears and plums which we have bought from local people. The board outside tells people about the products and every basket has a hand written slate label telling the customer what type of apple or pear they are and where they are from.

What sets you apart from your competition? What is your niche and why do you think you should win?

We are a genuine farm shop dedicated to supplying customers on a daily basis with fresh local affordable produce. Our shop not only appeals to people looking to spend their leisure time in the countryside, local people shop with us as an alternative to a supermarket. Our repeat customer numbers and average spend are testament to that. 

Our customer service sets us apart from many other shops. Our staff are hard working, diligent and enthusiastic and spend time with our customers and listen to what they say. We listen to comments and constantly strive to improve what we do and offer.  

We live, breath, eat and drink our farm shop. We have poured everything we have into our business and couldn't be prouder of what we have achieved. Eight years ago we were just like any other farming family with no retail experience and very little knowledge of the public's perception of our way of life. We have been, and still are, on a steep learning curve, we have learned about footfall; average spend, managing staff, met some wonderful companies and the people behind them, travelled all over the country doing research, worked through the night preparing for Christmas, won amazing awards, installed EPOS systems, now know how to butcher cattle and lambs, changed the way we farm, worked harder than we ever have and loved nearly every single minute of it. Our business provides a means for another generation to stay in farming, employment for local people and most importantly that vital link between our world and the public that has so very nearly been lost.  

We believe we should win because we are everything you are looking for and so much more. All of our family and staff work to the best of their abilities and provide a haven for food lovers with the environment at its heart, good quality, great tasting food is paramount and giving great customer service is a way of life. 

However, don’t just take our word for it. We asked our customers how we should answer this question and here are just some of the answers:

Gill Ogilvie Your passionate about great local produce. Allowing customers to bring their own produce if they have grown too much shows a truly community spirited and carbon conscious business. You not only have impeccable customer service but also fantastic product knowledge.

Gill Rutter You are sooo passionate about what you do that it comes across in both what you sell and how you deal with your customers, and that passion rubs off on us making it, not just a real foodie experience but a whole new learning curve. 

Angela Browning Genuine friendliness, helpfulness and caring for the customer. Passion for and knowledge about, your products. Both of these set you miles above other similar shops. I love the fact that your veg and fruit are from nearby farms and so with many of your products , there is a tiny carbon footprint. You should win because you should be rewarded for what comes naturally ...helping others whether producer or customer ...no matter how small or large. Good Luck

Lynsey Carr Apart from the wonderful produce, your staff are just so friendly and helpful no matter how busy the shop is, you're always made to feel welcome

Julie Ramsay You are passionate about fresh, quality, local food. You advise how to cook produce. You also take customers' ideas on board for stocking new items. Good luck!

Iris Mathers You are passionate about what you sell and will never settle for second best. Your staff are helpful and I think that they enjoy their work and what a difference that makes!

 

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