Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones hopes to create a “black Selfridges” at his new farm shop in Brixton, south London, which opened last week.

The Black Farmer Farmshop in Brixton Market is the first of its kind for the brand. It will highlight its own The Black Farmer products, along with those created by people in the local community and other black entrepreneurs.

Emmanuel-Jones says he has been “inundated with black people wanting to get their brands stocked here”, including one who came into the shop on a Wednesday and went on to host a sampling on the Thursday.

He says that while there are many black consumers in the UK, there are not many black people working in the grocery industry. He wants to show that “one of theirs can excel and do great things” in this area.

There are “a lot of black people out there with great ideas, great recipes, which can’t get to market”, according to Emmanuel-Jones, who says part of the new farm shop’s MO is to give them that big break into retail.


Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones is the Black Farmer

High street challenge

“Retail is going through a major challenge at the moment,” he says. “The high street is a mess.”

This is where he sees the farm shop coming in. It has had to evolve to be able to compete against both supermarkets and corner shops – and instead of trying to compete on price, speed or convenience, it is focusing on quality and experience, he says.

“The one asset you have is giving people a really good time,” he explains, adding that farm shops succeed because “they’re very good at crafting relationships”, which is “more and more important” to modern retail.

For this reason, the shop offers much more than straight retail, with punters welcomed to “The Black Farmer experience” as they enter.

There’s a bright seating area upstairs with plenty of plug sockets to attract the working-from-home crowd, along with a food and coffee counter offering eat in or takeaway options.

“You want to have a space where you create some sort of pleasure,” he says.


Near the coffee counter, the shop boasts seating with plug sockets for remote workers and charging on the go


As well as hot drinks and food-to-go, Emmanuel-Jones has plans to take on small, black-owned brands

International farm shop

The concept also goes beyond the realms of a regular farm shop, which Emmanuel-Jones argues “cannot exist outside its locality, because it relies very much on a local following, and they can never transport. And one of the things I’ve always been mindful of, and which I did with The Black Farmer brand from the very start, is position it to be a national and international brand.”

Indeed, The Black Farmer brand is stocked in many of the major mults, including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Ocado, with its sausages proving particularly popular, alongside ready meals such as jerk chicken and mutton curry.

“It stands for change, it stands for innovation, it stands for accessibility, and that’s my aspiration,” says Emmanuel-Jones.

The Black Farmer Farmshop, he hopes, will also have a nationwide appeal due to this brand strength. The Brixton shop will be used as a “template”, with plans to expand into other UK cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter and Manchester.

When he first proposed the idea of opening in Brixton, a formerly working-class neighbourhood with a prominent Afro-Caribbean community which is now in the throes of gentrification, Emmanuel-Jones says he was faced with questions: Why Brixton? Will locals be willing to pay the prices or appreciate a farm shop? Do they care about product quality? Such assumptions are something Emmanuel-Jones wants to challenge.

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Brixton is “very, very multicultural. It’s a place I could come and make a big statement that ‘even people who live in Brixton would like premium, great quality products’, and I’m blown away by the reception I’ve had.”

He adds that people “totally underestimated it”, himself included, to the point where he has had to panic-order more stock to keep the shelves full.

As an entrepreneur, he tells The Grocer, “you don’t wait for permission, you have a gut instinct and you’re about changing the world. Everything I’ve ever done is about changing the status quo. It’s not about selling products, it’s about change.”