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A new survey from YouGov has revealed that 43% of shoppers now distrust supermarkets, believing the quality of food being sold is declining. They also feared that UK standards will be undermined by changing regulations and trade deals.
This provides a key opportunity for indies to cash in, by offering quality, trust and a personal touch.
In fact, according to Martin McTague, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, “Our own recent research with Public First shows consumers prefer to shop at a small business because they want to support the local economy (72%), like the personalised service (49%) and prefer the experience (38%).”
The independent opportunity
With more shoppers looking for higher quality produce for their money in the cost-of-living crisis, fine food retailers can help to provide more bang for your buck.
As Mark Kacary, managing director of Norfolk Deli, explained, “Much of what we offer is exactly what’s missing in the supermarkets. We offer a bit of theatre an experience in that many people will comment on what a lovely smell there is when they walk in, and that is because much of what is available and visible is made in the shop, items like quiches, sausage rolls, fresh salads etc. are made less than 10-metres from where a customer stands to pay.
“This experience is missing in a supermarket which at best will have an on-site bakery but even then, the smells from the bakery are missing. This is a way for independents to get people into their shops. They can experience something different, and chat with the maker!”
Cat Morley, general manager at Yolk Farm and Minskip Farm Shop, added, “When the pandemic hit, we saw a huge increase in footfall to our shop; there was a positive shift in customers’ mindset from supermarkets to independent retailers. This happened organically as we already provided such a safe environment to shop, with beautifully fresh and healthy produce. We gained the trust of many new customers as well as maintaining our regular customer base.
“We believe that by maintaining the same high standards, continuing to offer reliable fresh produce and offering them a more personal, knowledgeable and hands-on experience, this is how independent retailers can capitalise on this opportunity. We value our customers incredibly and they value us.”
According to Jeff Moody, commercial director at the British Independent Retail Association (Bira), “Shopping local has now become a mantra as consumers try to reduce fuel costs and whilst also trusting in the offering independent retailers offer. Ukraine plays an important role in Europe’s food supply chain as major producers of cereals –particularly wheat. Shipping costs remain elevated, with costs four times higher than since the Covid-19 pandemic began. All these factors together have made shopping locally more attractive than ever.”
Gaining the trust of shoppers
While there is a key opportunity to fill the gap of trust left by supermarkets, according to Mark, “Individually it’s hard for the message to get across to the consumers that there is a viable alternative to supermarkets especially if the supermarkets are turning people’s heads with marketing campaigns based on “club points”, Nectar, cheaper than Aldi/Lidl and where it is all about price.”
But Cat argues that indies can build trust with consumers simply by maintaining their USP. She explained, “In most cases, I believe it’s as simple as the knowledge you can provide to your customers; here at Minskip Farm Shop, we pride ourselves on being able to provide the information that customers need and love about what they’re buying. We are able to confidently tell customers what area or farm our fresh, locally grown produce is sourced from and they can immediately make that link, which in turn builds their trust in us.
“We are well known in the area for our fresh free-range hen eggs; customers are able to visit our free-range hens happily roaming in approximately 3 hectares of orchard and grass paddocks. Again, we believe this builds trust in us as they can see for themselves how highly we regard the chickens’ welfare and quality of life. We see more and more that it really means a lot to many of our valued customers to know where their food has come from, but also to know that they are supporting an independent business and the local economy.”
Martin added, “Independent retailers are encouraged to sign up for the Good Business Charter accreditation to stand out from the crowd and lead the way on important issues, including their commitment to customers. With this accreditation, small businesses can demonstrate a clear message to consumers that they are committed to operating responsibly and become part of a bigger movement to change business for the better.”
At the bottom line, Mark concluded, “The only way in which independents can take advantage of any level of distrust the public may be having is to work together with their suppliers, but equally for their suppliers to work with their retailers. To work creatively and find ways in which we together can engage with the public and show them there are alternatives. Alternatives which may cost a little more, but which support the local environment and the local economy.”