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We all love a Great British Summer – the sun’s out (when the weather plays ball), a sense of positivity is in the air, and the appetite to get out and enjoy the outdoors is never greater.
The season brings a raft of opportunities; people are taking any opportunity to eat al fresco, whether that be in the garden, on a park bench or at a bells-and-whistles picnic, and it goes without saying that barbecues are being fired up across the land the moment the mercury hits 18 degrees… And that’s all before we explore the kaleidoscope of edible treasures now on the menu.
A taste for local
“With a combination of fine weather and holidays approaching, it’s obvious to state what we all know, which is that we will have an abundance of seasonal fresh produce,” begins Edward Berry of The Flying Fork.
“It’s also an enjoyable time for picnics, so good to be prepared for well-made grab and go offers. If you sell drinks, make sure the drinks fridge is well stocked, and if you run a butchery counter, don’t wait for the first sun to get your barbecue added value items prepared.”
With so much local produce available to Speciality Food retailers across the UK, the opportunity is ripe to cash in on the growing demand for quality and story.
“Consumer buying trends continue to point to the fact that provenance and artisanal food – created drawing on specialist skills and expertise – remain a key consideration for consumers, placing farm shops and delicatessens in a strong position,” says Edward.
“Summer is a great opportunity to showcase some of the best local produce from our area,” agrees Michelle Steele, owner of Earsham Street Deli. “People visiting often have a real interest in what is produced nearby… whether that’s a cheeseboard and wine for an al fresco evening, or a box of chocolates to take home as a gift.”
This offers an opportunity to stand out from the supermarkets. “We have seen horrendous supply chain issues that took the multiples by surprise – shortages from Spain, and of course the Covid log jam,” says Edward.
“It can happen again, so make sure you have a well-stocked display of fresh local produce. The independent offers yet another excellent opportunity to drive sales and assert the role of these businesses as not only pillars of the local community but increasingly the shopping destination of choice.”
In the current cost-of-living crisis, offering true value is worth its weight in gold. “Value is a word with so many definitions – but qualifying your offer with a genuine value for money message can earn respect,” he continues.
“With the cost-of-living crisis it feels like there’s a real sense of snapping back to reality after the post-Covid summers,” says Michelle. “But whilst that means people may be being cautious with their spending, it also means that there’s an opportunity in which people will feel that need to treat themselves.
“Maybe customers won’t be making larger purchases or going on expensive holidays, but at the end of a busy day or long week we can make them feel happier with something delicious to eat!”
The year of the staycation
“Domestic holiday tourism sales will be strong,” says Edward, which means that destination and/or out-of-town independents might well see a boom in new customers seeking out delicious ways to make the most of the season – both customers from outside the region who have travelled for a week away, and locals who find themselves with extra time on their hands while the kids are on their school holidays.
“Why not bring the med home with Greek, Italian or Spanish inspired recipes?” suggests Edward. “Those choosing to take a self-catering UK-based break will be seeking meal solutions that offer a magnificent home dining experience, but without too much preparation and stress.
“Holiday makers will be keen not to spend their precious leisure time in the kitchen, however they still want to sit down to appreciate delicious food, often replicating the traditional menus enjoyed whilst abroad.”
“Summer is our chance to showcase what we do to a new audience who are visiting or holidaying in the area and who may not have shopped with us before,” says Michelle. “Once a family or group have discovered us (after seeking out an ice cream or something for lunch), they often become a regular for the week or whole time they’re on holiday.”
Of course, customer service is key to success. “For us, it’s always about exceptional service and making sure our customers leave feeling looked after and like they’re part of something. When people are visiting the area they can chat to us about particular products or ask for recommendations, and for our local, regular customers we maintain the feel-good vibes of summer even on the rainy days!” says Michelle.