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Cobbs buys The Farm and is now looking for more retail opportunities

Posted: 1 July 2023

By Michael Lane

Cobbs Farm
Cobbs took the reins at The Farm Stratford in April and is now looking for more retail acquisitions

Retail group Cobbs Farm Co has said it is targeting more sites and looking to expand geographically after its recent acquisition of Midlands operation The Farm Stratford.

“We are actively on the acquisition trail and already in negotiations over a number of new site possibilities,” Cobbs CEO Tom Newey told FFD.

“We’re open to most locations throughout England but it has to be operationally sensible.”

Signage and branding for Cobbs at The Farm was installed at the end of June, after the retailer took the reins at the award-winning farm shop and restaurant on the outskirts of Stratford-upon-Avon at the end of April.

“The site locations we look for have traditionally been in Berkshire and Hampshire area but we have always been looking slightly further afield,” said Newey, explaining the decision to acquire a business outside of its current sphere of operation, where it currently runs three shops.

“Stratford is a strong demographic, we’re on the edge of the Cotswolds, and Warwick and Leamington are key towns that could produce some excellent customers.”

Newey added that, so far, Cobbs had introduced more than 1,000 extra lines to the retail area of the business, which was set up by the Wells family in 2018. He estimated that it would take 18 months to bring the site in line with Cobbs’ other sites, with a key aim being to adjust the balance between retail and restaurant sales.

“Big sweeping changes are not good for consumers or for staff either. It is a gradual process,” he said. “The Wells family have created something amazing and we’re simply looking to take it to the next step.”

Cobbs’ other sites are located in Hungerford, Winchester and Englefield, near Reading. It also operated Manydown Farm Shop, near Basingstoke, which has now closed but has submitted a planning application for a new site at nearby Woodgarston Farm, which it hopes to open in 2024/2025.

Newey said that Cobbs’ growth strategy reflected the operator’s faith in the farm shop sector.

“We see the demand continuing to grow. Yes, we’re in a cost-of-living crisis and it’s hard but we have confidence that the market is here to stay.”

“We think bricks-and-mortar, experiential, positive retail experiences in food particularly are a strong part of the future mix.”

Since opening in 2018, The Farm Stratford won a slew of awards, including the FRA’s Rising Star in 2019 and Best Small Farm Shop in 2020 it was also a regional winners in The Farm Shop & Deli awards in 2021.

This article first appeared in the July 2023 edition of Fine Food Digest.