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The new year has arrived, and retailers are already back in the swing of things after a Christmas season that saw grocery sales reach £11.7bn over the month of December, according to Kantar.
But before the sparkle of the new year fades, we take a look at the plans shop owners are hatching for 2022, the trends they think will be top of consumers’ minds and the expectations they have for another year of pandemic retailing.
Considering testing out a new arm of your business? January is the perfect time to turn your ideas into reality. The Norfolk Deli’s managing director Mark Kacary said his shop is planning a brand new subscription service. “They come under the title of Norfolk Food & Drink Clubs, with a subscription service for cheese, cheese and chutney, Norfolk spirits, Norfolk beer, Norfolk wine and a monthly hamper subscription packed with local goodies.
“Customers can order these to be monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly or half-yearly. It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Mark told Speciality Food. With hampers producing big sales for the business over Christmas – 2021 was The Norfolk Deli’s best year ever in terms of hamper sales – it’s also a good time for a packaging revamp. “First impressions are incredibly important, so we are designing a range of hamper boxes and outer boxes to take us a few steps closer to the Fortnum & Mason look and feel.”
While the tactile elements of fine food retailing are always important, diving into the world of digital commerce can have a significant payoff too. For The Norfolk Deli, a big investment last year into the shop’s new website platform came at a critical time, as online contributed around 35% of hamper sales. “We have really benefited from using the add-on apps that are available to manage data and to use that more effectively. This has improved how we market the business, how we talk to our customers and how we involve our online community with everything we do. We see this as the long-term approach that will see us ride out any future storms.”
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Local shops welcomed new customers in their droves during the pandemic. Nearly two years in, will this hold up? Will Docker, co-founder of Balgove Larder in St Andrews, believes it will. “We’re predicting that shoppers will continue to be loyal to local, having rediscovered the joy of cooking with speciality ingredients which aren’t available in the supermarkets, incredible quality fresh produce and local meat from our farm shop and butchery counter.”
The Covid-inspired local revival also led to a boom in staycations that was good news for fine food retailers. “Hopefully in the late spring and summer we will be welcoming international travellers as well as staycationers who have remembered just how wonderful a British holiday can be,” Will added.
One of the attractions of independent retailers is their innovative spirit and ability to chop and change and try new things all in the interest of serving their customers. “We’re looking for creative opportunities to expand and grow during the new normal,” Will said. “Last year we saw a huge demand for takeaway, and in the next few months we will be relaunching our Pizza Box and growing the offering.”
With another busy year potentially on the cards for local retailers, looking after staff will also be key. “Maintaining staff morale and team happiness remains a top priority,” Will told Speciality Food.
Community is at the heart of speciality retailing, but Covid-19 disrupted socialising as we knew it. Retailers weren’t deterred, however, and brands like Macknade forged ahead with Covid-safe plans that turned out to be a hit. “The pandemic has shown that coming together through food and drink is essential to both community and individual wellbeing, and we continue to believe in the power of food and drink to create, enrich and heal communities,” said Shane Godwin, managing director. “2021 saw us open a new site in Tunbridge Wells, launch a brand new website to expand our online offering and develop our outdoor Food Village.”
Also central to many retailers’ plans for the year ahead is sustainability, and Macknade plans to lead the charge. Shane said the business will be “offering customers choices which both do good and feel good. We’re constantly on the lookout for new initiatives to improve our sustainability as a retailer, without compromising on the premium quality of the products,” he said.
While Covid and Brexit have caused bumpy waters for those looking to export their products, as the storm calms and we adapt to the ‘new normal’, international expansion is back on the cards. “This year we are looking to focus on establishing our brand nationally and in selected international markets,” said Robert Hicks, co-founder of Ullapool-based Highland Liquor Company.
Yet the growth of ‘localism’ means that markets closer to home are more valuable than ever. “For the last few months of 2021, retail really shone for the business, and we’re delighted to now be working with Fenwicks department stores and the Westmorland group, as well as many, many more fabulous independent retailers,” Robert added. “This approach is one that will carry through to 2022 and we will be attending a number of trade shows to get out and meet people face to face again after a few years of virtual interaction.”
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