During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a huge increase in the number of people using farm shops – NFU Mutual’s research reveals that one in four people have used farm shops or bought from local producers more in 2020.
Agent for NFU Mutual Wessex, Simon Godding, said, “Throughout the pandemic farm shops have provided a lifeline to local communities, sourcing vital supplies during shortages, delivering fresh produce to vulnerable people and helping to keep people’s spirits up with friendly service.
“The rise of these rural retailers has been no mean feat. Many farm shops have worked round the clock transforming their business model to meet demand, such as introducing click and collect services. Staff have adapted from serving in farm shop cafes to processing and delivering online orders, and stores have redesigned their layouts to offer COVID-safe shopping experiences.”
The biggest reason for the change was that people wanted to support smaller, local businesses. Fresher, better-quality produce was also rated highly, followed by the environmental benefits of buying local food.
Simon added, “Promisingly, 40% of people say they will use farm shops and local producers more this Christmas and there are encouraging signs that these changes are here to stay. In fact, a recent survey of our customers has revealed that shopping locally is the top permanent change they plan to make after the pandemic is over. There’s no better way to thank our farm shops and farmers for their hard work this year than by supporting them – not only over the festive season but into 2021 and beyond.”
Further research from the Farm Retail Association (FRA) carried out in July found that 92 per cent of farm retailers reported a significant rise in new customers since the first lockdown in March.
Jenny Rose, manager of the FRA, said, “We are hugely encouraged by the latest NFU Mutual research. Much of this success story has been a result of farm shops being able to replenish shelves which has helped establish them as reliable food suppliers, alongside shops providing a relaxed but COVID-safe environment for shopping which consumers find less chaotic than other retail settings.”
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