Collaboration key to farmers making the most of retail boom, says NFU Mutual

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Joining forces with likeminded businesses will be key to success, says a retail expert at NFU Mutual.

Recent NFU Mutual customer research found that 37% of respondents shopped local for the first time during the pandemic. Of these, 95% plan to continue shopping local wherever possible.1  

Speaking at the Farm Retail Association’s ‘Stronger Together’ conference on Thursday, Frank Woods, retail sector specialist for leading insurer NFU Mutual, said: “Local retailers can work together to capitalise on this recent boost.  Traditionally local competition has narrowed collaboration, but we’ve seen a shift as more retailers have pulled together to face challenges, including but not limited to the pandemic.

“I’d encourage local businesses to embrace that mindset. Collaboration can be a real investment in your business’ future, with the potential to benefit elements like online presence, influence on local decision making and shop signage and appearance.  

“You can start by joining formal or informal networks in your local business community, working together to identify opportunities or overcome challenges.

“For example, a 2020 campaign organised by the Canterbury Business Improvement District, #BuyLocalBlackFriday, encouraged residents to choose a local business for online purchases, promoting that many retailers had evolved to offer click & collect.

“It is initiatives like this that allow local retailers to work together to build both business and resilience.”

By adapting to changing customer needs throughout the pandemic, farm shops have seen their popularity increase. They 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. As part of its ongoing support for farmers diversifying their businesses, NFU Mutual has partnered with the Farm Retail Association to help farmers harness public support and thrive in the future.

Jenny Rose, manager at the Farm Retail Association, said: “Frank’s presentation really fit the bill for our annual event. As an association, we truly believe that businesses are Stronger Together whether that’s through knowledge sharing on a national scale, or working on a local level to support one another.

“Local collaboration can make all the difference – we’ve seen the sad demise of some high street giants recently, and as consumers continue to shift their focus towards ‘local’ it’s an ideal time to band together, capitalise on the movement and nurture this exciting new retail opportunity.”

Other NFU Mutual speakers at the event included David Harrison, Farm Sector Lead, on the challenge of spinning the plates of running a farm with a retail setting safely, David Welsh, Financial Planner, on the tax implications of running a diversified farm business and Neil Whatling from NFU Mutual Risk Management ltd. talking about managing health and safety in both a farm and retail setting.