23 February 2007, 16:42 PM
  • This month Rob Ward at Greenfields Farm talks about sales, snoggable garlic, his new delivery club and window stickers

January and February have been really encouraging months for us here at Greenfields Farm. Sales are up 12% on last year, which for an established business, is pretty good. Our online store, which we started at the end of January, is growing steadily, with average sales three times our in-store spend!

Our major problem is the delivery charge, it cost us, so we can’t afford not to charge our customers, but it’s a huge barrier for growth. However, we’ve just come up with a great idea – well, a customer gave it to us so it does pay to listen! - we are making it possible for customers to create a ‘Delivery Club’ – this means someone places an order and then passes their order number to as many other people as they want. All new orders to the same address at the same time have free delivery. It’s a fantastic way to get customers to sell for you and creates a little community. I will keep you up to date on how it gets on. More info on creating your own website is on www.on-ward.co.uk.

On another note, thank the lord, our customers are finally starting to eat pastry again! Right on cue, people are predictably dumping the health campaigns and eating our homemade quiches and pies. Cheese is also back on track, enjoying above trend average sales for this time of year. However, some lines have not regained their pre-January glory, handmade chocolates seem to still be struggling with very poor sales. Weirdly, our homemade tray bakes are flying out – a new line of ‘Chocolate Tiffin’ and ‘Millionaires Shortbread’ sold by the block off a slab - they’ve got an earthy appeal (and great margins). We’ve also just started stocking a great new line - ‘Snoggable Garlic’. It’s hard to get hold of, but sells brilliantly.

Unfortunately, this is the last month of Vacherin – boo! I love this product as there’s so much you can do with it – I suppose it’s the seasonality that make it even the more special, but apparently it freezes really well – worth a try?

So, what’s next? We set up a food festival on our site two years ago and it has grown from strength to strength. We run them every quarter. Our next one is Mother’s Day weekend – we have a Garden Centre next to our store where we run a marquee for the producers, which links the two sites and creates a street market feel. I can’t stress how powerful running, or being part of these types of events, are. They have become incredibly successful. Our goal this year is to persuade as many visitors as possible to give us their contact information – we started an email and texting mailing list. Another thing we are doing is handing out 10,000 car window stickers with our website and logo, we are using a ‘join our campaign for real food’ message. I can’t wait to park at a supermarket and spot another car showing off our sticker!

From now on, I’ll be thinking about Mother’s day and Easter – more on that next month…

Bye for now – happy retailing!

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.

If you are interested in contributing to our ‘Deli Diary’ section, please email nicola.mallett@aceville.co.uk, or call 01206 505981.