27 July 2007, 13:29 PM
  • This month, Ed Haigh explains why small retailers should put up a fight on the online side of business

Last year, online food sales in the UK were somewhere in the region of £3bn. If anyone needed confirmation of the changing behaviour of consumers, that figure ought to provide it. And where is this money going? You guessed it – to the usual suspects. Tesco took almost £1bn online last year – a growth of more than 30% on the previous year. So, they’ve decimated the high street and now they’re about to clean up online. We might as well pack up and go home, right?

Wrong. Tesco and the other supermarkets may be able to blow small retailers out of the water on price, but price isn’t the only motivator for consumers. In fact, in our experience, it’s not even necessarily the biggest. Convenience is the king and on convenience, every small retailer ought to have their sights firmly fixed on the supermarkets. Offline, the difference between a trip to the Tesco megastore at the end of the street and the small farm shop, down a lane in the country, can be pretty significant. Online, the difference between tesco.com and farmshop.com can be one small click. There’s no reason why the smallest, remotest producer can’t be as easy to buy from as the biggest food giant. That’s what BigBarn is now intent on proving.

We’re building an online market place for local food producers and retailers that will deliver the technology and, critically, the route to market, that are the biggest hurdles to achieving that one small click. It’s called LocalFoodShop and it’s launching soon. LocalFoodShop will provide all the tools that producers and small retailers need to start selling products online and has formed partnerships with a number of very high-profile websites to bring in the customers. We believe that this collaborative approach will allow LocalFoodShop to become the main alternative to supermarket shopping online. LocalFoodShop is a not-for-profit organisation that will return 93% to the producer or retailer.

The growth in online spending on food is an opportunity, not a threat. As far as we’re concerned, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the supermarkets will win online, but we all need to act, and act fast, to make sure they don’t. If you’d like to find out more about LocalFoodShop, give BigBarn a call on 01234 871005.