Why location matters for speciality food retailers

19 April 2023, 07:21 AM
  • Ellen Manning explores the opportunities and challenges that can arise from where you set up shop
Why location matters for speciality food retailers

The factors that can influence the success of a business are many. But while some elements can be tweaked as you go along, location is a factor that needs to be considered from the get-go. After all, it’s not something that can be easily changed down the line without time, effort and expense.

So how do speciality food and drink retailers avoid that and choose the best place at the outset?

Making a hub a home
For many artisan retailers, location isn’t just about where an individual retailer is, but where it is in relation to others. Hugh Brown from The Stockyard in Melton Mowbray outlines the bonuses that come from being in a hub alongside other speciality retailers and producers.

For Brown, the key is collaboration. “Food and drink producers and retailers are well known for working together – sharing knowledge, passing on information, supplying each other and generally supporting one another. At The Stockyard, for example, Round Corner Brewing supplies used oak barrels from its brewing process to smoked food specialist Feast and the Furious, and these barrels are used to provide a unique smoked flavour to the meats and cheeses.”

Being part of a hub means being able to tap into extra footfall, he adds. “A food and drink hub is the sum of all its parts…. which means a door opens to additional customers. Visitors to one specialist store may be tempted to pop into the one next door, and so on. Each shop in a hub is likely to have its own social media accounts – promoting the site to its own customers. This can add up to a potentially much larger pool of customers to create extra sales.”

On top of this, many food hubs have access to experts who can help food and drink manufacturers and retailers overcome different challenges, says Brown, citing The Stockyard’s links with Melton Food Enterprise Centre and access to technologist Alice Jones who can provide free support to eligible businesses on everything from product development to food safety, quality management and compliance and scale-up technology.”

Another benefit is the chance to participate in events. While any retailer can organise their own, being part of a wider collective of businesses can broaden the scope for such events and the number of people they can attract.

Similarly, the power of numbers at Bonnie & Wild can help independent businesses set up in a location they might not otherwise be able to afford, says managing director Ryan Barrie.

“Cost-wise, things like rent and rates can make a city centre location prohibitive for speciality food businesses, which is one of the reasons Bonnie & Wild is such a great addition to Edinburgh. It means the small businesses that wouldn’t ordinarily have access to this prime location can trade more cost-effectively.”

How to look for the perfect location
The considerations are many, and what works for one fine food retailer won’t be right for another. For those in a rural location, thought around access, signage and parking are important, says Charlie Wells, director at The Farm in Stratford.

“Key points and lessons learnt from my own experience would be: ensure you can have the correct road signs to help support your business; check you have main roads nearby for easy access and shout about the footpaths and cycle routes nearby.” Her final tip? “Invest in a good quality car park! It’ll be worth it!”.

For Noisy Lobster’s marketing manager Monica Taylor and deli manager Daisy-Mae Prewett, it’s about listening to your customer base - which for a tourist location can vary.

“We have varied audiences depending on the time of year, with mainly locals in the winter months and holidaymakers in the summer. Our offering changes throughout the year in response to the demand.”

Barrie agrees. “Build your model and offer to appeal to the people who will be likely coming to your venue. Know your market and understand your value chain.” So while speciality food and drink might not be quite the same as choosing a home, the message in his view isn’t that far removed.

“Location is everything.”

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