On Thursday 16th April 2020, a group of 30 members of the Farm Retail Association got together via web call to discuss the steps that they should be considering to prepare for re-opening/a gradual return to ‘normality’. Please see notes from that call below, should any fellow members find this useful. We intend to catch up again as and when relevant. If you’d like to be part of the next discussion, please contact jenny@farmretailassociation.co.uk.

Notes from call

What does opening look like? Zoom call 16.4.20

Conversation led by Rob Copley, Chairman FRA

After Matt Hancock’s announcement we ko we are to be locked down for at least another 3 weeks, which takes us to 8th May.

This week we’ve started to feel a bit normal, the changes we’ve made have set in and its becoming more routine.

My guess is that if they do allow thing to re-open from 8th May, it will start on  small scale. I think this will be gradual – such as businesses smaller than 50 people as long as they can do social distancing.

Cafes I think realistically we’re looking at July or maybe even August before we open.

I think farmers markets will be open straight away with correct social distancing measures in place.

I think the government will let us open the maize maze and PYO with social distancing in place. Restricted number with ticketing. At Farmers Copley’s we have table top strawberries via a one way system – I can send people down different routes. I think come July we’ll be fine to open fully for PYO.

My advice is to open your business lean. You can always staff up.

Good time now to look after your staff. Make sure they feel appreciated. Have a think about how you can

I think people, will be looking for luxuries, and treats such as afternoon tea. The government will be telling us to social distance but everyone will be wanting to visit We need to think about how we capitalise on this with social distancing. This is a planning stage. Plan for re-opening.


We’ve still got old ladies coming in, we haven gone completely cashless.  If we handle cash we wash hands straight away. I do think cash will disappear from our business. I think farmers markets or PYOs need to learn how to take mobile payments or you are going to risk going out of business.

Jenny can put you in touch with Payment Sense or i-zettle for good rates.

Drive thru – my turnover is higher than it was the same time last year. Some people may wish to keep them going. If you are doing a drive thru and you can keep it open, there could be an opportunity there.

Online ordering/online shopping/order and collect

There is a real opportunity for people who are doing it well to continue to do so. We are investing in  better computer software. If it’s working for you now , it’s a good opportunity to spend a bit of money on it and get it right.

Food trends

Av transaction value has gone from £17 to £48. I think this may continue – people shopping big and coming less often.

The fruit box, veg box, salad box etc – works really well. People are also learning to cook at home. Will continue buying fresh and wanting to be helped with their meal planning and choices.

Input from members on the call

Rupert Evans, Denstone Hall

We’re doing a huge amount of click and collect. We don’t take payments online. We call them once we’ve picked their basket and take the payments. Its working OK but it is a bit of a headache, we’re doing 80 – 100 a day and it’s killing us. We’re getting a huge amount of praise from our customers – we’re building something positive and gaining new customers.

One of the things I’m worried about is quality. We’ve got to make sure that quality is top notch. Don’t put sub-standard veg etc in online orders – we know that but do your staff know that? Reiterate that quality is key.

We’re using woo-commerce on our platform – its working well though a few limitations. We’ve got bolt on that gives us a picking list. Staff walk around shop in the order of the picking list. We also have a back office warehouse area for the most popular items.

In terms of re-opening we are slightly worried. The café is our picking area. If the café re-opens where do we put the warehouse? But I do think it will be very slow to re-open. The older customers will be the last to be coming back out. They make up the bulk of our café customers.

One of the things we’re struggling with is the quantity of things we’re trying to fulfil for deliveries.

We want to do more deliveries. I’ve just applied for the government innovating rat. £25k – £50k grants available. We’re applying for an Ocado style delivery grant which is £50k. This should enable us to do 50-100 deliveries per day.

Ian Kelsall – getting the operation right for online deliveries is essential to ensure you don’t end up making a loss. Be careful.

Rebecca: Was the application process difficult for the government grant?

Rupert: I started it about 48 hours ago. Handed it in today. If you’re a quick writer and can write it off the cuff. It limited you to about 400 words on each screen. There are about 8-10 screens. The difficult bit if the financial you need an expenditure plan to show how you’re going to be using the money. They’re not asking for any quotes etc. Its juts your plan and basic costs (as long as the costs have substance to them)

Mark, Appetite Me

Most large garden centres such as Blue Diamond have ceased trading. Now’s the time to possibly steal some trade from them. Bedding plants etc. Talk to local garden centres that grow their own that have a limited delivery operation, who might be looking for new routes to customers.

I would say to everybody – exploit every opportunity surrounding PR and social media as much as you can – talk to the local press. Local press are looking for GOOD news stories. Lots of free advertising to be had. Golden opportunity to promote your business. This is a brilliant opportunity for farm shops.

(Rob mentioned to be careful around too many plants, as farm shops still need to be seen as an essential food retailer)

Ian Kelsall, Insight 6

Team who are furloughed feeling a bit neglected. We have released a free survey to any clients who might want it to see how their teams are feeling. Everyone that’s furloughed feels out of it and that they’ve been cast to one side. Try to keep communicating to your furloughed staff if you can – we can help with this survey. This is industry wide – it’s not unique to farm shops.

Good to check quality of products going out for online orders and click and collect. Think about doing picking check – big retailers do this. If you have 5 pickers, check each of the 5 every so often just to look at quality and accuracy.

Duncan Syme, Data Strategy Consulting

A lot of the growth is coming from basket sizes as people are buying more. Think about when you get back to the real world the experiences customers are getting from you are so much better than what they are getting from the supermarket.

Click and collect – when things go back to normal, make it work for you, introduce a minimum spend etc.

Roz, Roz Scott Market Services

In East Anglia I’d say most of the farmers markets that I know of and general farmers markets, have closed. Especially council led markets.

A lot of my farmers markets traders are doing fanatically well selling on social media. A lot are doing deliveries within 15 miles of their own business properties.

I’m working on a market rescue plan for some of the councils that’s I work for. The overall feeling from the traders is that they are desperate for the markets to open again.

Cambridge market for example is open, with absolutely no barriers or stewards etc. But there are only 10-15 stalls compared to normally 60, so there is plenty of space.

One of the big veg sellers in the area is bagging up/small boxes prepacked mixed veg. No choice for the customer but its working fantastically.

Bob Taylor, Kent Farmers Market Association

We have operated a drive through farmers market. This is a weekly event and we had our third one today. Its working magnificently the traders love it – it’s a lifeline. The customers love it too.

One issue for us is online payments. We’ve been using BACS for most of ours because it’s free. I’m interested in card systems as well.

Rob suggests i-zettle. BACS is not relevant anymore. Make it easy for your customer. Rupert suggests payment sense. You can take payments online with the as well – you don’t need a terminal.

Rebecca, Jolly Nice

We’re trading very well. Click and collect is clunky, we’re working our way through it.

I’ve actually wanted to open a drive through for a long time and we recently got planning permission for this. Concerned about stock control. I might start off with a drive thru coffee offer and some bestselling stuff.

We’ve found that in the shop our basket spend has improved massively. £68 average through the orders and collect services. We’re delivering to elderly and vulnerable.

Rob says he is 60% click and collect (very simple order system through website). The rest of it is just people driving through. As for stock control you’ll need to feel your way with it. Keep it really simple at the start. 30 basic products that you know you can get. Once you’re comfortable with that, just grow it.

Oliver, Suffolk food hall

We do our utmost to avoid deliveries because they are a nightmare. A contactless collection service has worked well with our customers. Less time delay, less cost, no delivery fee.

We have been grappling with order & collect vs drive thru. We’ve been steering customers towards ordering in advance and collect their items.

We are looking at how to make our payment process better too. 43% of our order and collect customers are newbies. Fantastic but we want to make sure we can hang on to as many of them as we can as possible.

Rob – had a chat recently about how to keep details of these new customers. We are collecting data. E-mails.

Ian – voucher system. Give them a reason to come back.

Duncan – think about why they’ve come to you and what their motivation is.  Quality/price/provenance – heavily in your favour right now.

Mark – the key is to have a plan. When we get notice that things are going to re-open – you need to have a plan in place. A loyalty scheme money off voucher, free product etc etc… start planning NOW whilst you have time. Money off afternoon tea etc.

Oliver, Suffolk food hall

Question about EPOS Bureau

How are you getting more out of Eureka. Has anyone gone for the Eureka e-commerce interface?

Rupert – I had the demo from The EPOS Bureau for their click and collect solution. It didn’t work for me. It would have created another layer. WordPress is our CMS. Woo-commerce is a plug in that works with wordpress. Take a look at our website later on. We have bolted in a plug in that then groups the items by department so there is a logical grouping that works for us as pickers are walking round the shop.

Final thoughts from Ian Kelsall, Insight 6

Communicate with your team. What’s on your mind? What’s happening? Keep your team informed. Get them on board, get their ideas. Both the team that are still working and the team that are furloughed.

Keep giving them a pat on the back. You cannot give too much praise at this juncture.

Make  furloughed people feel that they are still part of the business. You need to ask them what’s important to them and what’s on their mind. Our survey is designed to let them tell you what they are feeling. Jenny will share the survey.

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