I do not stock any locally sourced food or drink products in my store as I do not think that there is much of a demand for them.
I have certainly never been asked by any of my customers for locally sourced goods. I only have a small chilled and baked section and a basic range of fruits and vegetables.
I have to be honest, if I wanted to start selling locally sourced goods I do not really know where I would go to get them, or what type of products to stock and I do not think that I am alone in that.
Like so many things in life it all comes down to education, and I suspect that the majority of small independent retailers only have a very basic idea of what local sourcing actually entails.
There is certainly not enough information out there to support smaller independent retailers if they wanted to branch into this area.
If I knew more I might be interested as I have heard that local pies are quite popular in this area so that could be something I might look at.
I know that Parfetts stocks a very limited range of local produce and that the Stockport depot is looking to source a few more lines in the future, so maybe I might look into this at a later date.
Food From Britain
All the statistics are showing growing consumer demand for locally or regionally produced quality food, so it has to be an advantage for retailers to stock it.
I would advise independent retailers to contact their regional food group to find out more. Food From Britain is also here to advise and we would be happy to organise anything.
There's also our website, www.regionalfoodanddrink.co.uk, which provides information on more than 3,000 quality food products across the UK. Retailers can input the food type they are looking for and search for it.
Some areas hold farmers markets fairly regularly, others less so and they provide a great opportunity to meet suppliers. But you can't always rely on them having everything you're looking for and they are really more for the consumer than for the trade.
The other thing to say is that there's no point in setting up your stall and not telling anyone about it. You'd be daft not to make a marketing message. You could build a reputation that spreads for miles by stocking regional food.
Talk to producers about what marketing materials they have or you could produce a hand made leaflet talking about the products you're stocking. Regional food groups can also advise you on how to get your marketing right.
Local media is very important, particularly if you're running promotions. Invite journalists to come and see your store and explain why your offer is different to other stores in the area.
Heart of England Fine Foods
The first thing a retailer looking at stocking locally sourced products should do is contact a regional food group such as HEFF.
We would arrange to visit them to discuss what they were looking for and carry out a recce of their store. We remove the hassle of sourcing locally, acting as facilitators. We would identify the appropriate categories and producers that retailers need to look at and then suggest a meet the buyer day, which includes 30-minute presentations by producers.
Within that meeting, the buyer would be able to talk about issues such as distribution, pricing and the recommended prices for products. These events are very targeted. We wouldn't put producers in front of retailers if their products didn't suit their retail offering.
Regional food groups could then help to organise store promotions, tastings and PR for any products chosen.
HEFF also runs a scheme called Savour The Flavour, offering grants of up to £1,500 to list new suppliers. The cash could be used to select refrigeration equipment or shelving units to display new products if needed. We work with every type of retailer, from farm shops and forecourts to convenience stores. Producers would also support promotions of their products with sampling activity.
Local produce features highly on all retailers' agendas and smaller retailers can use it to differentiate themselves from the bigger boys.