Posted: 21/04/2017

Unmanned shop doing the business in Norfolk

A Norfolk farming family has opened a self-serve farm shop that takes the “honesty box” concept to the extreme.

And, two months in, father and son Tim and William Mack have no regrets about their faith in their fellow man.

Their 225 sq ft Yare Valley Farm Shop has devised an ingenious method for keeping its takings secure, if not its stock and loose change, in the CCTV-monitored building.

Customers pay for their goods down a “feed-me” hole – a long tube that extends into a locked room.

Yare Valley Farm Shop

The Macks have even resolved the problem of what to do when fivers and tenners get stuck.

“We have a tennis ball on a stick which you prod down the hole and it gets rid of the money. It’s a good system and it works,” said William Mack.

The shop has pots of change, a card machine, and a calculator and pad for the mathematically challenged. “Touch wood it’s been okay,” said William Mack. “People have been very honest.”

The shop, in the village of Surlingham, opens every day from 8am to 9pm and it has been taking £100 a day on average.

As well as an effective shop window for its own Yare Valley Oils brand of rapeseed oil products, it sells its own farm-reared beef, home-grown potatoes, firewood and everyday essentials – such as flour, sugar, butter and eggs. It also stocks jams, honey and chutneys, cheeses, chocolates, ice creams, coffee, tea, pasta and tinned vegetables.

If lines are not produced on the farm then they are sourced from local suppliers, such as Pepperell’s, Marsh Pig charcuterie, Wayland eggs and coffee from Grey Seal, which it brews up in the shop.

Yare Valley Farm ShopThe farm had been selling its potatoes to its swimming pool timeshare customers and wanted to “take it to the next level and get closer to customers,” according to William Mack.

He added: “We feel people like to know where their food comes from and you can’t get any closer than where the stuff’s produced.”

The Macks are not ruling out eventually staffing the shop but it makes economic sense not to at current levels.

“We have a visitors’ book and people write that they love the novelty of it. Some people say it’s an ideal way to shop because you don’t have to speak to anyone.”

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