At the start of lockdown, there were fears that local food traders would suffer as supermarkets took advantage with their well-established delivery service. Panic buying, hoarding and online shopping were additional threats.
However, six months later, independent food shops in Aylsham report that trade has been exceptionally good for them.
But, now that the summer ‘staycation’ boom is over, what happens when everybody goes back home?
‘It all depends on the efforts traders make to establish relationships with their customers and maintain these when times change,’ says Professor Andrew Fearne, of the Norwich Business School at the University of East Anglia.
‘People need good reasons to change ingrained habits,’ he says. ‘Covid was a very good reason as they were forced to shop online and explore new distribution channels. However, the recession will drive them back to the mainstream unless local producers give them a compelling reason to stay.’
G F White is one of two butchers in Aylsham which has adapted to changes in shopping habits.
Crawford White, pictured left, says: ‘It’s been phenomenal – better than Christmas. Pre-lockdown, panic buying meant there were shortages and supermarkets ran out of fresh meat so many people who didn’t buy from us before came to our shop.
‘As a result, we were struggling at first, especially with pork and chicken supplies, but we’re now back on course and delighted to have kept many of the new customers.’
It is a similar story at Coxford’s butchers where owners Johnny Payne and Jason Gibbons saw business grow by more than 30 per cent.
‘We’ve had people queuing for 40-50 minutes, many of them new customers,’ says Johnny.
‘They come because they know we never run short. Our suppliers and local farmers have supported us very well.’
‘It has been a very good time for our business,’ says Marion Brett, of Aylsham greengrocers S & M Brett.
‘As many people didn’t want to go out for their groceries, we started a delivery service which just kept on growing. We now deliver as far out as Reepham and Badersfield.’
Bread Source manager Kim Watson, who runs the Aylsham shop, says business has gone from strength to strength despite having to close the cafe.
‘Deliveries have become a whole new aspect to our business, and we plan to continue that. The new customers are sticking with us and enjoying our new product range,’ she says.
Slow Food Aylsham celebrates its 15th anniversary in October. Sadly this year’s food festival, again due to be held in October, has been cancelled, but watch this space for next year’s details.