Total Number of lines: 2,500
Speciality: Fine food
Extras: 60-seater restaurant
In a retail environment where a shop selling a range of chutneys with checked cloth on the lids, a good selection of olives and the odd pot of goose fat can be classed as a fine food store, Flâneur is a breath of fresh air.
The food hall situated on London's trendy Farringdon Road, which is named after a person who strolls the city streets looking for the very best places to eat and drink, presents a compelling case for what a top-end speciality independent store should be.
Not only does it sell bread sourced from across Europe, freshly made patisserie and seasonal fruit and vegetables, it also stocks an extensive range of vinegars, olive oil, chocolate, pasta, cheese, fruit juices, wines and beer, organic breakfast cereals, herbs and spices and tea, many of which are not available anywhere else in the country.
What really makes Flâneur unique, however, is its business model. While local foods have become this year's must-stock across the independent trade, Nick McGill managing director, is unapologetic about deploying a wide-ranging sourcing policy targeting the best rather than the closest food.
Flâneur gets its meat from suppliers in Wales to guarantee quality and traceability, for instance.
Its pork is Gloucester Old Spot from Wendy's Farm in Brecon, its lamb comes from Skirrid Farm in Powys and its organic chicken comes from Craig Farm, also in Powys. Meanwhile its pasta comes from Tuscany, some of its vegetables come from Surrey while its fruit juices come from France.
“Within the M25 there are not an awful lot of suppliers,” he says. “We sell seasonal veg and don't buy green beans from Kenya but much of the stuff we source comes from abroad.”
Cheese, one of the store's biggest features, predominantly comes from a wholesale market near Paris, for example.
Flâneur buys its British cheese from Neal's Yard. The store takes delivery of French cheeses about every seven to 10 days, and buys it at various stages of ripeness to ensure good quality through the week.
Some of its bread comes from nearby Dulwich but it also takes delivery of bread from France two or three times a week as well as sourdough imported from Germany about once a week.
“Having regular trade with France gives us an advantage because if we find other products we can get producers to send them to our cheese supplier and it can all go on the same lorry,” he says.
While the company attends the Speciality & Fine Food Fair in London to keep abreast of new producers entering the market, McGill believes it is already dealing with the most interesting producers.
He recently stumbled across a company in the Basque region that produces vegetables and meat in jars that nobody else in the UK sells and took on the range.
He also looks to supermarkets abroad for inspiration.
As for the competition at home, there's only one, says McGill.
“There is pressure to stay ahead but the challenge of price is enormous,” he says. “Waitrose sells high-quality lines for less than I can buy them for. I regard Waitrose as the company to watch.”
Manager Nick McGill
Nick McGill spent 20 years living in Italy, where he developed a keen interest in food. He took the helm at Flâneur in November 2005, having spent five years working for Ferrero's marketing department and 15 years looking after internal communications for Alfa Romeo. “I have always been interested in the value of brands and was very interested in working with food as well,” he says. “I had a lot of experience in multinationals but none in the smaller end of the business, so it was a new challenge.”