05 May 2020, 11:37 AM
  • Tori Stanley, owner of Tori & Ben’s Farm Shop, shares her experience of retailing during the Covid-19 pandemic
Tori Stanley of Tori & Ben’s Farm: “We have been absolutely flat out”

We have been absolutely flat out in the farm shop and seen a massive increase in demand. Without cinema, theatre, restaurants or sporting events, people are turning food into their main source of entertainment and embracing cooking at home from scratch.

Equally, many families’ daily structure has changed – with virtually everyone at home eating three meals a day which means customers are having to purchase more food to eat at home.

Fundamentally, people are looking to buy food in a safe environment. We’ve made changes to accommodate social distancing. Our staff on the tills are protected behind a screen, we are operating a standard one in/one out policy and the vegetables are displayed outside to create additional space. We’re also providing isolated, pre-ordered collections and a local delivery service for vulnerable customers.

In terms of stock, we’ve changed our offering quite significantly. We used to produce a lot of food to go – so pre-prepared quiches and salad boxes but that’s all been changed to essentials and fresh produce. There’s also been an increase in sales of ambient, store cupboard items as well.

On the downside, the volume of demand throughout the country is unfortunately making it incredibly difficult to get hold of some British grown produce. Although, we continue to use local suppliers wherever we can. As an example, we’ve only been able to source Dutch strawberries which means they’re about twice the price of what they should be.

Whilst it’s hard to source some English veg and fruit either because they’re in high demand or out of season, consumers are still demanding these items, even though paying over the odds is not sustainable. We verbally declare to every customer whether a product is a) not British or b) if it’s very expensive - we cannot be deemed to be extortionate… because with a short supply chain we are not.

It is taking time for the supply chains and producers to re-balance but it’s gradually coming back. We currently source local or producer sourced potatoes, asparagus, eggs, flour, cereals, rapeseed oils, pates, cheese and obviously meat (which is our own). The challenge is out of season or non-UK produced fruit, veg and salad that consumer expect to find during a convenience one-stop shop. If the consumer demands a wide range of ingredients, then consumers must understand the staples are often seasonal or imported from other countries… Prices consequently reflect this.

The feedback we’ve received has been amazing and we’re seeing lots of new customers visit the farm shop. At the end of the day, humans are creatures of habit so whether they’ll continue to use us in the future possibly depends on how long the lockdown continues for. However, we hoping people will come to depend on our quality and service.