Farm retailers across the UK are reporting an unprecedented surge in new customers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Research by the Farm Retail Association (FRA) reveals that 92% of farm retailers have seen a “significant” rise in new customers since lockdown rules began in March.
In addition, the poll found that 79% of farm retailers have introduced a click and collect service because of coronavirus, including in the form of completely contactless drive-thrus. Another 67% of farm retailers said they had introduced home deliveries. As a result, farm shops across the UK have processed an estimated 1.4 million-plus orders for home delivery or collection since the government’s lockdown measures began.
The research also reveals that 73% of farm shops have either hired extra staff or furloughed fewer employees than they expected as a result of the new services.
Rob Copley, chairman of the FRA and owner of Farmer Copleys Farm Shop in Pontefract, said: “The last couple of months have clearly shown that farm retailers can react nimbly to customer demands because of their size, independence and direct relationships with local farmers.
“They have also shown that they are proactive, supportive members of their local communities. We have members who prepare and deliver ready meals to local community groups that support the most vulnerable members of society. Others are donating produce to local school hubs, frontline NHS staff and other key workers.
“As well as going above and beyond in this time of crisis, farm retailers are helping to keep the nation fed, offering easy access to fresh, nutritious and affordable British food. They are demonstrating that they are both caring neighbours and viable alternatives to the supermarkets, boasting shorter supply chains with lower carbon footprints.”
The FRA estimates that the UK’s network of farm shops has a combined turnover of more than £1.5bn, including sales from farm shop cafés.