9 July 1999

Some farm shops outdoing superstores

FARM shop sales are out performing supermarkets, according to a survey conducted by the Farm Retail Association.

"Many farm shops achieve sales of £2000 a sq ft, compared with about £700 a square ft obtained in some supermarkets," said Rita Exner, FRA secretary at the Royal. The survey, conducted earlier this year, included 50 businesses out of a total of about 1500 shops and pick-your-own enterprises, which contribute £350m to the rural economy.

The average farm shop has an annual income of £230,000 and sales are rising at 15% a year, revealed the survey. "The average income figure masks a great variation from £30,000 for basic farm shops to some retail outlets with a turnover of millions of £," said Ms Exner.

One farm retailing business, not included in the survey, has a turnover of about £5m a year. There was also a wide variation in business growth rates, from -6% to more than 40%, it reported.

And the level of enquiries from farmers seeking information about how to start a farm shop business is growing rapidly. "Many farmers, particularly livestock producers, are looking at starting a farm shop as a means of supplementing meagre farm income," said Ms Exner.

The association is working with the MLC to design training courses aimed at encouraging producers to develop their meat handling, retailing and marketing skills. Since May this year farm shops have also been able to apply for accreditation under the Linking Environment And Farming scheme.

An area for improvement identified by the survey was lifting average sales achieved an employee a year, said Ms Exner. Farm sales staff achieved £32,000 a year compared with sales teams in garden centres who achieved £70,000.

The average number of lines stocked in farm shops taking part in the survey was 800. &#42