12 June 2007, 14:11 PM
  • This month, Rob Ward asks, are you going back to go forward?

Local souring is not a new idea (contrary to some people’s opinion) it is of course a step into the past to regain the future.

To our business it has been part of our DNA since we starting retailing in 1990. But, it does seem that local sourcing is now reaching fever pitch on the high street. The Whole Foods Market in Kensington is going to develop into a temple to all things wholesome and ethically sourced and no doubt, its influence is going to be far reaching.

After over a decade of Tesco leading the race trying to be the most efficient, leanest operator, using simple, displays that could deliver cheap food to the masses. But can what I hear be true? The creatives have been let back into the boardroom and finally, national retailers are realising that consumers are emotional creatures that need inspiration.

Here’s my prediction – we about to start a decade of national retailers getting more emotional and less transactional.

We as independent retailers have known this since time began, but now the cat is out of the bag. There is even a new name for consumers - ‘Locavores’ – species dedicated to buying all things local. I despise words like this – but it does demonstrate how relevant this trend has become.

So, local sourcing is going main stream, but how can we react to supermarkets that are going to rapidly expand their local range. Simple – really! Make sure you are always adding value to products you buy. Be that by the way you present them in an inspiring way or demonstrate your talent to combine core ingredients to make something interesting. Moving up the food ladder, getting closer to the point of consumption, is going to be an increasingly more important part of our retail offer.

Showing genuine knowledge of why you buy your core products has to ooze out of every part of your business. The world of food retailing is going to start to get a lot more emotional and a lot less transactional. We just need to make sure that we continue to push these boundaries. This emotional buying is shown by the growth in local sourcing but also why sustainability is now on the agenda in a big way. Thinking of ways that we can become more emotional about how we retail will be key to proving that we can justify our place to the consumer.

Looking back to the past is one way to move forward to the future – the next stage being how we combine nostalgic ways of retailing (local sourcing been one) with wildly innovative fresh ideas that could make our retail businesses an exciting and different experience.

If you want to see the presentations from a recent conference on ‘Local Sourcing’ – visit www.on-ward.co.uk and download them for free.

I look forward to see your comments or maybe some neat ideas how you are getting more emotional about you retail business.

Bye for now…


Rob Ward owns award-winning farm shop and delicatessen, ‘GreenFields’ in Shropshire, more information about his store is available on http://www.GreenFieldsOnline.co.uk. Rob also helps other retailers – visit http://www.on-ward.co.uk, or call 07773 777097.