Helping the independents fight back!

Posted on 13 Sep 2011 in Guest Blog | 0 comments

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PJ taste was established by Peter and John in 2006 to showcase the best local food in a simple grab and go café style. The aim was to produce food with real taste derived from the authenticity and seasonality of produce. Their commitment to local and ethical food has been maintained and developed over time.

Here Peter discusses how supermarkets and high street chains put Profit BEFORE People, and how that’s harming independent business and much more. This is an excerpt from Peter’s blog, the full version can be found here.

As a small independent business retailing food it’s easy to be overwhelmed by these tough economic times, as well as the fierce competition from the larger groups.

Indeed having recently experienced the pain of some of our local suppliers and more owner operated restaurants go out of business in Sheffield, it would be easy to concede defeat to the power of the multi-national.

So what can we do? Well, having recently done some work with Andy Hanselman I’ve had some ideas about how we can show in his words, how we are “Dramatically and Demonstrably Different”.

Being clear about this is a good start as being involved in day-to-day production and sales it’s easy to lose sight of what the customer sees or wants. However, for the sake of the business and the team, it’s now the time to do some work on the business instead of just in the business.

First it is important to understand what we are fighting against. In our case supermarkets and large groups of coffee shops and chains of sandwich shops have developed the power to dominate the market. It’s important that we don’t simply gripe about this but understand how it has happened. They have got into this position by providing a customer experience that works. Making themselves easy to buy from, concentrating on their core offer and creating a clear and defined vision of what we can expect from them.

I believe the problems start as they reach a high level of market saturation. At this point do we, the customer, really still have a choice or are we now too far from the point of production to understand or influence the quality of ingredients. Importantly I also believe that all the focus becomes on short-term profit which does not factor in possible longer term costs to our health and the environment. The experience can also become rather sterile and does nothing to help families derive joy from eating and drinking.

The insidious effects of the supermarkets march to domination are now being more fully understood and explained. Leading the way have been figures like Joanna Blythman who’s 2007 book “Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets” outline the corrosive effect of supermarkets on our farming and our food culture. More recently the mantle is being taken up organisations like hiSbe whose work is an encouragement to us to bash on.

So what can we do to encourage new customers to buy from us? I start to explore possible answers to this question of spreading the word about Sheffield Food in my blog.

Peter would love to hear your ideas, so please read the rest of his story here and feel free to leave him your thoughts and feedback.



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