Posted: 13/09/2019

M&S takes cues from farm shops for new food store format

The M&S ‘Renewal’ trial at Hempstead Valley features an upgraded produce section

A new food store format – focussed heavily on produce and frozen cabinets – being trialled by Marks and Spencer (M&S) could prove stiff competition to independent farm shops.

The “Renewal” trial, unveiled in the M&S Hempstead Valley branch in Kent, has a market stall-style fresh produce section, delicatessen and sizeable frozen food section, offering more than 290 lines.

The store’s food hall has grown from 9,500 sq ft to more than 16,000 sq ft, which has allowed for a 30% increase in products.

It has also added an in-store bakery and plastic packaging has been removed from fresh loaves.

Stuart Machin, M&S food managing director said “Renewal” was not simply about store design or a facelift. It was about a total renewal of everything M&S did and creating a store experience. 

He said: “Our Renewal vision is about having the mind of a supermarket – being efficient in our operations and processes – but with the soul of a fresh market – protecting the magic customers love about M&S Food – the freshness, the quality and the fun.”

Machin said Hempstead Valley was just the starting point for the renewal programme. A “handful” of stores are expected to be used as test beds before any further decisions are made about rolling out concepts.

He added: “We want M&S Food to be an enjoyable shopping destination, where customers come to buy delicious tasting quality food at a great everyday price. To do this we need to broaden our appeal and be more relevant, more often.”

Rupert Titchmarsh, Cowdray Farm Shop & Café general manager, thought the format would be a threat to farm shops that were not doing a particularly good job.

He said: “M&S has been struggling for a while now and they are constantly trying different things and clearly decided to look at areas they consider to be potentially profitable, so they are taking their lead from farm shops.”

Catherine Shuttleworth, chief executive at marketing agency Savvy, said the trial store saw M&S returning to “great greengrocery and fresh food at its best”.

She said farm shops should ensure they communicated to their shoppers about the way in which they did business locally and without costly plastic.

“This is a really important point of difference that retailers in the mainstream space – even M&S – will find very difficult to replicate.”

This story appeared in the September issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

Read more of the latest news from Fine Food Digest here

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