Could this £250k new farm shop be the biggest in Norfolk?
- Credit: Danielle Booden
A huge new £250,000 farm shop has opened its doors outside Norwich - an expansion which would not have happened without the surprise sales boom of the coronavirus lockdown.
The 8,000sqft "Goat Shed" has welcomed its first customers to Fielding Cottage in Honingham, one of the many Norfolk farm shops to benefit from a shift in buying habits as shoppers sought out local food during the pandemic.
Owner Sam Steggles said his takings remain 20-25 times higher than they were this time last year, when the shop was still operating out of a tiny wooden shed.
By constantly adding new product lines in response to customer demand, he said the shop has continued to grow during the crisis, sparking the decision to invest in a new building with a footprint the size of a small supermarket.
As well as a wide range of Norfolk fruit and vegetables, bread, cakes, preserves and drinks, it has branched out into homewares and gifts, with an area set aside for a kitchen and cafe still under development.
"It has been an incredible transformation, and that is all down to the team we have got around us," said Mr Steggles.
"There are some incredible farm shops within Norfolk and East Anglia, and they all offer something different, but I think ours has the most comfortable shopping experience, purely and simply because we had the luxury of being able to develop the shop with Covid in mind, so we created a bigger, safer shopping environment for customers to come and enjoy.
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"It means we will have a much bigger area of space than a lot of other farm shops, smaller supermarkets and retailers."
Mr Steggles said the project proved the need for small businesses to react to change - even if it took them in an unexpected direction.
With hospitality and travel industries shutting down amid the pandemic, the farm shop has helped outweigh the financial losses in the company's other ventures, making goat's cheese and renting holiday cottages.
"We had no desire to be shopkeepers," said Mr Steggles. "We were growing our cheese-making business and the holiday cottage business and then the pandemic came and that disappeared overnight.
"Through necessity we pivoted, and now we have found ourselves in a purpose-built building by giving our customers what they want.
"Without Covid, we would still be in the wooden shack with the honesty system and it is so much more than that now.
"Any entrepreneur has to adapt to the conditions. They see the opportunity and they go and grasp it."