Posted: 09/08/2020

Independent thoughts: Rob Copley’s Christmas retailing plans

As independents are placing their Christmas orders and starting to prepare for what promises to be a one-of-a-kind festive period, FFD caught up with Rob Copley, co-owner of Farmer Copleys farm shop and chairman of the Farm Retail Association, about his predictions and plans for this December.

Independent thoughts: Rob Copley's Christmas retailing plans
Robert Copley

Rob Copley,
Farmer Copleys,
West Yorkshire 

My prediction is that Christmas is going to be big, but not without its challenges.

I believe it’s going to be a big one this year because it looks like we’re heading into a recession, that’s a lot of people’s prediction, and by December it’s bound to have hit more. And what happens in a recession? People stop buying cars, they stop buying holidays and designer clothes and things, but what they don’t do is skimp at Christmas. 

They’ve been pulling their belt in for months and they think, ‘let’s go big, it’s only one day and we’re eating at home’, so it becomes the luxury treat.

The problem we have though is that we have an increase in footfall that we get every Christmas anyway. I think that social distancing is still going to be here in December, but even if things are back to normal, we’re still going to have to take measures as people are still going to be scared. We’re going to have more people through our doors, so how do we make them comfortable. 

Christmas retailing
Farmer Copleys in West Yorkshire

The in word at the moment is omnichannel; selling online, through click and collect, in store etc to spread your customers out. So we are going to extend our opening hours, do local deliveries because the average transaction value will be so much higher, we’re going to do much more click and collect – it worked really well during lockdown and we’ve invested in software to make it even easier, and we’re going to do two VIP nights a week where our best loyalty customers can come and have a nice quiet shopping experience, keeping them out of the way and making them feel special. Also, we normally do collection for the three days before Christmas day, but we’re extending that to four with timed collection slots. 

It’s all about spreading the customers out and making them feel safe. We’ve bought an anti-viral fogging machine which we use to disinfect the whole place at the end of every day.

We get our Christmas orders in very early – we put ours in in June this year. I’m happy that anything extra we will be able to pick up at the time. With meat and turkeys, we’re going about the same as last year but I’m confident we can get some more if we need it and if we sell out, we sell out. We are going heavier on gifts this year, though. 

The main thing we are stocking more of this year is party food. Lots of ready-made starters and nibbles. It seems unlikely that Christmas parties are going to be going on this year, so we’re trying to cater for people doing more of that at home in smaller groups. I predict the feeling is going to be, ‘we’ve had a crap year, let’s go big at Christmas’, and we need to be ready for that.

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