LATESTPOSTS

The art of patience

Posted: 09/04/2014

modena

I am writing this at the airport, waiting for my plane back to the UK, after an interesting few days in Italy in Verona. What a splendid city, one I haven’t visited before, but must do again when not working. Although sampling the local food and wine can hardly be described as taxing! One main thought is in my head as I travel home, and that is how much more the Italians value food than we do in the UK. In case you think that is an over-statement, I really don’t think it is. Of course, there is a small percentage of the UK who do exactly this - and they are our customers, in the main. But generally a much higher percentage of the population here, I am sure, care about their food, invest in their food and are prepared to wait for good food, rather than it being something that is a necessity before moving on to do something else more useful. (more…)

spring is here

Posted: 31/03/2014

fsd

So, the first national trade show of the year is over and the hard work of following up all the new enquiries begins. I must say that there was a great sense of buoyancy at the NEC and people are looking to the food sector as one of the areas to drive growth in the UK at present. For example, there were several film crews at the Farm Shop & Deli Show, and you can see my debut on Irish television at 6pm this Wednesday (2nd April) on RTE. It was filmed after a straight two hours on the “Farm Shop and Deli Live” stage, so not sure how coherent I was!

So as I said many pluses on this show, which has a high percentage of people coming through the door, who are relevant to the sector. Let’s face it, whilst the NEC is central to many, it is a venue you have to plan to come to. The venues in London are more conducive to members of the public dropping in, so attract more time-wasters. In other ways, however, the NEC is a complete joke. Why when there are acres and acres of car parks do they charge punters to park? (more…)

From Bala to Birmingham

Posted: 20/03/2014

bala

I am in the middle of a gear change - desperately trying to catch up with lots of projects after coming back from Kenya earlier this week, before heading up to the NEC on Sunday for the Farm Shop and Deli Show (part of Food & Drink Expo). By the way I am only setting up on Sunday, the show this year has changed to Monday-Wednesday, rather than Sunday-Tuesday. I have already encountered a number of people who told me they were going to the show on Sunday - you can but only if you want to help us set up our stands! Perhaps William Reed lacking a little in communication here?

My regular trips to the orphanage in Kenya do add a good perspective to all I do, and I would thoroughly recommend anyone to become involved in something other than your day-to-day business activities. This time I took two colleagues with me, and both have told me that it was a “life-changing experience” and are very pleased to have that opportunity. (more…)

Samphire Season

samphire

Wild at Heart have just pickled the first of this year’s harvest and it is now available exclusively though Cotswold Fayre (HRT10), and at a special introductory offer of 20% OFF until the end of August. Samphire grows around Britain’s coast in the intertidal zone, and has been traditionally known as “Poor Mans’ Asparagus”. It is fantastic as a garnish to fish, cold meats and cheese - think cornichons / capers, or just to nibble on its own with a pint of foaming English Ale. (more…)

Samphire Season

FARMA Awards

farmretailawardsThis week I was privileged to be at the FARMA conference and awards. This annual event helps farm shops grow their businesses as well as awarding the best farm shops in the land. As one of the fastest growing retail sectors in the UK and key customers always for any producer of speciality foods it is a good event to be at. Whilst farm shops should primarily focus on their own produce, followed by other good local produce, the key to making these businesses more profitable is to stock the “best of the rest” in terms of speciality food from the UK, and have some well-known speciality food brands that encourage customers to increase their basket spend, which is often far too low.

Many of the initial large farm shops developed in the South of England 10-15 years ago, but the north of England, Wales and Scotland have certainly caught up in recent years, and some of the best examples of good practice are now to be found north of Birmingham. This is certainly reflected in our growth over the last 2-3 years. Just look at this year’s winners: (more…)

FARMA Awards

Good PR – Bad PR

pr

A comment from Deborah Meaden last night on Dragon’s Den has prompted this week’s blog. “You can’t do anything with £3,000 per month spent on PR”. I think this was in connection with a business, called Rustic Indian, that did get a rare investment from Piers Linney. A lovely range of chilled curry sauces - samples have been sent and devoured by members of the team at Cotswold Fayre - delicious. This was before we started thinking about chilled!

Actually, guess what, I disagree. Admittedly more funds would be great, but with a good product with eye-catching packaging, you can achieve quite a lot with this kind of money. Articles from the Telegraph appear on my desk every Monday morning from one of my colleagues who is an avid reader of this particular broadsheet, and I am sure the same is true of other broadsheets, in particular. This national coverage is often for relatively small brands and is achieved for a tiny fraction of what it would cost to advertise in said publications. (more…)

Good PR – Bad PR

Supplier & New Supplier of the Year Announced

soty13

Apart from continuous rain, the last two weeks have seen me first in Scotland, as you know from the last blog, followed by the annual pilgrimage to ISM in Cologne. The latter event always involves prolonged periods in the evening keeping warm in the local beer taverns, so best that I was only there for two nights! (No - I am not getting too old, just a little more health conscious these days!) ISM is one of the more innovative shows I go to, and whilst it seems smaller than it used to be, there is nothing in the world of confectionery and bakery products that doesn’t happen there. Lots of innovation - we just need to work out which products are priced respectably enough to sell in the UK market. You will have to wait for our Christmas 2014 catalogue to see what we chose!

Back to Scotland and I took the opportunity whilst there to present our two annual awards to our suppliers. (more…)

Supplier & New Supplier of the Year Announced

New Year, New Products

ssfshowI always love this time of year as it is “show-time”! I am quite often in San Francisco this week at the Fancy Food Show, but not this year. It’s Scotland for me. In particular Scotland’s Speciality Food Show in Glasgow. We have our first ever stand at a food show in Scotland to support our growing business up here. There really is a growing food movement in Scotland. Forget the old clichés of fried mars bars. There are a huge number of farm shops here within easy access of a large percentage of the population, and I expect Scotland to grow faster than other parts of the UK over the next few years. The same is true of Ireland by the way, which until recently hadn’t seen farm shops in the south, but several have opened recently plus garden centres opening food halls.

Of course, I will also be looking around the show and be interested to see what new products are being launched here and over the several other shows I will attend over the next three months. (more…)

New Year, New Products

New Year – New Beginnings?

newyearOf course, everyone begins the New Year with new intentions, if not resolutions, which seem to be going out of fashion. I polled a few people last week and none of them claimed to have made any New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps that is because they have made them for years and not kept them - I will come onto that in a minute. First though, did you know that estate agents busiest week of the year for taking new listings is this week? Why? Partly because people take time off work, and reflect more than usual about changing something in their life, and partly because more relationships break up at this time of year than any other, as people spend more time together! Sad, but true! It is also the time of year when the number of people looking for jobs is at its highest. Good, we have two new vacancies on the jobs websites at present, so we should get some decent candidates

Traditionally then, New Year is the time when many of us look forward. However, not as many of us look back. (more…)

New Year – New Beginnings?

For some, Christmas is not all joy

xmas13A slightly more reflective piece this week, and perhaps good for us all occasionally to step back and think about priorities. I have had a very busy few weeks, and it’s not going to get any better between now and Christmas. After all we need to push as much stock out of the door as we can as we all know what January and February are like! However, the two main items on the news this morning should make us all think about our priorities and what really is important in life.

First there was the news about the storms particularly hitting homes and businesses along the East Coast. Some people have lost their lives, many have had homes flooded and some people have had their businesses ruined at what should be the busiest time of year. Whatever stresses and strains the rest of us have to put up with, consider it nothing compared to those that have been battered by the storms. Time to be thankful for what we have despite the inevitable frustrations and tiredness we all feel at this time of year. (more…)

For some, Christmas is not all joy

Money Money Money

money2

They say it makes the world go round. Certainly if you are running a business, it is a little more impactful than that. For many of us in the sector, this is the time of year when cash-flow is tightest. Our warehouses and shops are stocked high with stock and it is the quiet before the storm. Next week and for the four weeks following the shops will be crammed with consumers buying the stock we have planned for, bought and even paid for months ago in some cases. I don’t think I am giving away too much that our debtor book is more than double its normal value at this time of year.

A few tips to help us manage cashflow at Christmas:
· Use the fact that customers will want more stock to ensure they pay for any invoices that are overdue
· Do not be tempted to “let it go” as it is Christmas and you are getting excited about the turnover figures
· For small businesses especially it is easy to get sucked into everything to do with pushing orders out of the door and forget to collect the debts.
· Do not extend the “season of goodwill” to persistent bad payers! (more…)

Money Money Money