5 secrets to speciality retail success as the food sector rebounds

19 July 2023, 09:07 AM
  • Fine food retailers must play to their strengths as the food and drink market moves towards pre-pandemic levels
5 secrets to speciality retail success as the food sector rebounds

After a tough few years, the food and drink sector – including retail and eating out – is expected to stabilise in 2025 as inflation lowers and consumers’ disposable incomes rise, before growing to around pre-pandemic levels by 2028, according to industry research.

This year, IGD said, food and drink retailers have seen consumers switch to discounters, convenience and online, as well as down-trading to cheaper products. During the short term, Bryan Roberts, global insight leader at IGD, said competing with the success of discount retailers will be a challenge. “[However] as costs start to level out and shoppers become more comfortable with discretionary spending over time, we will begin to see more multi-channel use.”

In the meantime, what’s the key to success for fine food retailers?

1. Agility

Edward Berry, partner at independent food consultancy The Flying Fork, told Speciality Food that independent retailers must play to their strengths – one of which is their ability to respond quickly to new trends.

“We are in a position where we can be agile, which the supermarket’s can’t. If you want to change your range, if you want to bring in a small selection of something just to test the waters, if you want to move your business around a bit,” he said, fine food shops can – and should. 

2. Discovery

Consumers often visit farm shops and delis to find something new, and this will remain a key strength as the market moves towards recovery.

“I like the idea that people come to our shops and get lost,” Edward said. “We want them to stay, we talk about dwell time. The supermarkets don’t want you to stay, they want you to go in, find what you’re looking for, and leave as swiftly as possible with no interaction with anybody,” he said. While supermarkets are cutting deli counters, butchery counters and fish counters to get more people through their shops, independent retailing is all about interaction.

“Their measures of success don’t allow for that level of interaction or time or training, whereas we like people to go in and discover and have a bit of fun,” Edward said. This dwell time can be increased by changing the layout of your shop and encouraging customers to move through the space in different ways.

3. Communication

While fine food shops might not have the sophisticated technology of a club card that feeds them data about what shoppers are buying, they have an advantage when it comes to communicating with customers. “Talking to people, and the relationships that you build when you’re in the independents, are quite different. They’re very personal,” Edward said. By speaking to customers, you can find out what they like and what they don’t to help inspire stocking ideas.

4. Find your USP

You might focus on local products or have an expansive and interesting range of chocolates that consumers won’t be able to find anywhere else. Whatever it is, choosing your niche gives you a chance to demonstrate your expertise.

5. Showcase provenance

Whether you only stock products from a 10-mile radius or specialise in handmade Italian fare, shouting about where your products come from can only boost your credibility as a fine food retailer. “[Customers] like to know that there’s a story behind [your products],” Edward said.

Talking about provenance proves to customers that you take your sourcing seriously and shows the real value of shopping with independent retailers.

more like this
close stay up-to-date with our free newsletter | expert intel | tailored industry news | new-to-know trend analysis | sign up | speciality food daily briefing