Walsingham Farms Shop | www.walsingham.co
Sam Bagge of Walsingham Farms Shop in North Norfolk reveals some exciting expansion plans
The last 16 months have certainly brought some gigantic challenges for our business, not least the constant uncertainty and, let’s be honest, mixed messaging from the great and good (and more recently the not so good – cough, cough, wink, wink!) in Westminster.
However, it has also been interesting to see the shift in how people view independent small retailers, like ourselves. We’ve been massively fortunate to have a consistent and loyal local customer base for years now and I believe that has grown and developed in the past year or so. I’d be the first to say we like to do things differently, especially detaching ourselves from the ways of corporate retail and the crazy world of mass food retail and supermarkets.
Yet, with the pandemic came overnight changes to our business and brought us somewhat in line with the way supermarkets demand and shift pre-packaged items, particularly in our butchery which saw us adopt a whole new way of working. From what we have seen, our sales grow and continue to grow in all areas of our business. There will be many factors to this but the way we now retail our products is certainly a big driver. Having seen these increases, we are now at the start of an exciting multi-phase investment programme: upgrading our equipment, specifically our chillers and display ware, to allow us to offer our customers a wide range of products and various ways to purchase them. Whether it be a more personalised service over our counters or quick, easy and all the information ready to hand in the form of a pre-packaged item.
A big focus of our investment has been around saving energy and doing our small bit for the environment. New equipment will be right up to date with energy savings across all areas of our shop. We will have doors on chillers to prevent wasted energy year-round and in the later stages of our upgrades, we will look to harness the ‘wasted’ energy from all our chillers to heat our hot water used in the kitchens, preparation areas and toilets. All exciting for many different reasons!
We quickly realised after many drawings that we just couldn’t squeeze in a fresh fish counter or dedicated chiller into our small space to fulfil the need and demand recently for fresh fish with our customers. Fortunately, we have overcome this with the introduction of a weekly fish van from our friends at East Coast Fishmongers. They visit us every Tuesday between 10am and 2pm and offer an amazing array of fish, shellfish, and smoked fish which is all straight off the boats in Lowestoft Monday evening and in our shop Tuesday morning. We are delighted they are with us and it appears so are our customers! Pre-orders can be made directly with them if necessary.
As part of continually trying to improve our business, we are often trying to reach out for feedback to keep improving what we do. Keep an eye out on our social media and website for our customer surveys in the coming weeks and months and be a part of our next big idea!