Retailer of the Year winner 2019, Cannon Hall Farm, share their 2020 experiences.
This year the Farm Shop & Deli Awards are looking to shine a light on those specialist retailers who have gone above and beyond for their community. Our judging panel includes previous Retailer of the Year winners and, leading by example, they have shared their lockdown challenges and successes with us in a series of blogs.
First up is our 2019 winner Richard Nicholson from the family run Cannon Hall Farm, who regularly feature in Channel 5’s Springtime on the Farm series.
What key changes have you made to your business in 2020 and were these planned, or driven by the Covid-19 pandemic?
They say when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
We’ve had to be extremely proactive during the epidemic, as the majority of the business including the open farm and restaurants closed for extended periods of time during the two lockdowns. With only the farm shop open we had to maximise our ability to generate revenue to try and keep as many staff busy as possible. Here’s some of the changes we have introduced:
• Farmers Robert and David came up with the idea of broadcasting live on Facebook every day at 7.30am and this quickly became very successful and well watched. He began coining catchphrases like 'Oh ‘eck’ and 'Living my Best Life’ and the idea to produce merchandise for online and farm shop sales was formulated. We now sell items like t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, badges, mugs, water bottles and calendars in their thousands.
• We recently took delivery of our first batch of Oh ‘eck beer and this week we are expecting our first batch of Oh heck and Happy Days gin based on the recipes dreamed up by our farmers on the Friday on the Farm TV show on Channel 5. The TV shows Springtime on the Farm, This Week on the Farm and Friday on the Farm reached up to 2 million viewers. Christmas on the Farm is coming soon!
• We took the option that was offered to us by Facebook to create a supporters group for extra content and built it up from zero followers in March to 3,700 in November, paying £3.49 per month for extra online Facebook content such as pictures, lives and videos.
• We introduced a weekly Facebook Live cooking demo on the Cannon Hall farm Shop page with Farmer Richard every Wednesday at 6.30pm. It regularly gets viewed by over 15,000 people generally with a reach of over 35,000.
• We have a book Living Our Best Lives-The tough and touching story of a real Yorkshire farm coming out on April 1st 2021.
• We also increased deliveries and click and collect options.
Have these been successful? Tell us what results you have seen for your business.
In some months we turned over twice as much in the farm shop as last year. Our farmers won a ‘Telegraph Lockdown Lift Award’ followed by a ‘Points of Light Award’ from the Prime Minister. We won a silver award in the British Farming Awards for ‘Best Family Business’.
Our online merchandise shop has generated many thousands of sales and we’ve adapted the workforce to deliver. Last week we had 1,300 orders on file and we’ve processed over 1,000 orders this week.
We are at our best with our backs against the wall and we’re really positive about the future. We are discussing plans for major events going forward.
Do you plan to incorporate any changes moving forward?
Moving forward, internet sales integrated with social media on our new and improved website are going to become increasingly important. Social media allows us to project the personalities of our farmers and staff in all areas of the business. Being 'people orientated’ can happen online too.
We hope our involvement with the Channel 5 TV programmes will also take a bigger role in increasing awareness and driving the business forward.
As it looks like the Covid-19 is here for a while longer, what one key piece of advice would you impart to other specialist retailers from your own experience?
Think outside the box. Rather than hunker down and furlough as many people as possible, think about how you can give them different roles within the perimeters that you’re allowed when restrictions are in place. Look how an online option might replace or embellish your standard offer. Spend time communicating with your customers. Make sure they know the personalities within your business and see you as accessible and engaged.
As previous ROY winners, and now members of the esteemed judging panel, why do you think these Awards are beneficial for businesses to enter, especially this year?
There’s a real prestige involved in winning these awards. They carry real weight with the public, your contemporaries and with those in the food industry. The awards encourage and incentivise businesses to become great communicators. To impress the judges you’ll need to be able to demonstrate how you impress your customers, both in your workplace and through you online presence. They reward creativity and innovation.
Thank you to Richard for contributing to our blog, to find out more about Cannon Hall Farm please visit their website.