Offering events, catering, ready meals and a booming hamper business, The Corbridge Larder is much more than the ‘Deli/Cafe’ its signage declares.
Recognised as the north east regional winner of the 2021 Farm Shop & Deli Retailer Awards, the Northumberland business has been transformed since being taken over six years ago by Jennifer Horton and her husband Bob.
With Horton leaving behind the corporate world of Procter & Gamble and neither she or Bob having retail experience, acquiring the business also transformed their lives.
“When we took it on, we thought we’d be able to turn it round really quickly, but it takes time to build reputation and what your customers want,” she says.
It may not have happened overnight, but today the business has an enviable reputation and works with many local suppliers.
On a day-to-day basis, former accountant Horton takes care of paperwork and accounts and covers staff absences in the shop, while her husband deals with stock pick-ups and deliveries of hampers and welcome packs.
“It is also about trying to think about where the business is going,” says Horton.
That meant swiftly adapting at the onset of the pandemic, offering a free delivery service to customers in the village and surrounding area. The shop also expanded its product range to become a one-stop shop for customers who could not get to the supermarket.
And local author LJ Ross worked with The Larder by funding the supply of much-needed provisions to key workers facing empty shelves in supermarkets at the start of the first lockdown.
Covid also prompted the business to revamp its website, which contributed to a meteoric rise in hamper sales. The Larder had sold just 36 in the four years to November 2020, but this soared to about 500 by the end of the year.
“Using local suppliers meant we could get the stock to fill all these hampers,” says Horton, adding that the timing also helped the suppliers facing the impact of Covid restrictions. “December would usually be a month when they would go out to shows and markets but they didn’t have any of that, so they loved me coming along with huge orders.”
When The Grocer spoke to Horton, her thoughts were on this December, which will include offering a personal shopping service.
“After hours, a customer can have a glass of wine and have The Larder all to themselves to do their Christmas shopping,” she explains. “We will also be doing a Christmas preview for invited customers.”
The Larder has built a database of customer contacts by giving shoppers the opportunity to supply an email address when ordering a hamper. This will enable the business to market events such as quiz nights and music nights, and Horton is also considering hiring out the café space for special occasions.
Alongside this, she is keen to expand a catering service and restart the ready meals operation that proved a hit with shoppers last winter – and will undoubtedly come up with other ideas in the coming months.
“I see my role as being a strategic one,” she says. “What do we need to do to make sure The Larder is successful and continues to be successful?”
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