A group of businessmen is set to launch a new chain of small supermarkets supplied directly by farmers and growers, The Grocer can reveal this week.
The Farmers' City Market chain will be based initially across the south east, with the first store set to open this November in Hampton Hill, near Kingston. The retailer harbours plans for rapid expansion nationally.
Stephen Wilkinson, who worked as a food and drink buyer for M&S for several years and is one of three directors driving the business, said Farmers' City Market would "breathe life back into grocery shopping".
He said the new concept was designed to bring the best elements of a farmers' market under one roof, but minus the mud, inconsistencies and inconvenience.
The retailer, whose other directors have backgrounds in dairy farming and textiles, has conducted exhaustive research into consumers' likes and dislikes of such markets.
The first store's 9,500 sq ft selling space will be divided into a variety of different food zones packed with premium goods and complete with a master butcher, fishmonger and fresh pasta maker. It will be staffed with trained "food professionals".
Specially designed PoS will ensure that the farmers' retain their own identity, while detailed information on product origin will be provided, alongside cookery and serving suggestions.
Wilkinson said: "In many cases the farmers' contact details will also be on display so that customers can call them up."
The store, which will be designed by Uno Retail Solutions, will provide an organic offer but there will be greater emphasis on quality, local sourcing and seasonality.
"Seasonality is such an important factor and many consumers have simply lost touch with it. Our ambition is to help them reconnect."
James Walton, chief economist at IGD, said that the concept had "huge potential", but added: "It will have to be tackled incredibly carefully to ensure that it does not end up becoming mainstreamed. People love the whole hunter-gatherer experience and they don't want to sanitise that."
Farmers' City Market intends to open a further four stores in the surrounding area by the end of 2007.