Grocer Goes Really Local

Discussion
Dec 13, 2007

By George Anderson

Duncan Innes, founder of Sussex and the City, a supermarket located in Brighton, England, has taken the ‘buy local’ mantra to a logical, albeit extreme conclusion. Mr. Sussex and the City only sells products grown and/or manufactured within 50 miles of the store.

According to the Springwise.com, consumers have bought into the concept and wear shopping at the store as a badge of honor as they demonstrate local pride, show concern for the environment and get fresh foods at the same time.

Mr. Innes got a leg up on the local approach from the time he spent managing a local Japanese restaurant. The experience was invaluable as it gave him access to high quality, local suppliers.

RetailWire caught up with Mr. Innes to gain further insights into the Sussex and the City business model.

RW: How difficult is it to create a grocery business that solely sells local goods?

Innes: It depends how you define local goods. I only sell goods, which have
been produced, grown or made within 50 miles of my shop. But some of the ingredients
have been grown elsewhere. For me, it is as much about supporting local industry
as it is reducing food miles. I’m also lucky to live in an area where wine,
beer and cheese are specialties. I do sell chocolate that has been made locally,
but the cooca is from far afield. I buy everything direct from the producer
giving a real farmers market feel to the shop and cutting food miles further.

RW: Are you drawing from a wide range of consumers in your area or primarily
those who could be labeled as activists?

Innes: My customers are primarily locals who like good food. Price, quality
and value are still their primary drivers; they like the local angle. I
reckon 10 percent of my customers come to me because they care about the
environment, and another 10 percent are tourists who want to take away
some food or drink from their visit to the area.

RW: What advice do you have for others in the U.S. and elsewhere who
would like to take a similar approach to yours?

Innes: My main advice would be, make sure you have a great product
range at a competitive price. Customers aren’t stupid; try to meet
as many farmers and food producers as possible to give yourself loads
of product knowledge – that kind of knowledge is impossible for supermarkets
to replicate. Take your product to your customers. I take stalls at
food festivals and community events; I sell online and actively search
out PR, TV etc. You are selling yourself, your region and a great lifestyle.
Be proud about it.

Discussion Question: Do you think a grocery concept similar to Sussex and the City would make it in the U.S.? How keen are American consumers to buy local or, at the very least, to purchase products made in the U.S.?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "Grocer Goes Really Local"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Yes, some consumers prefer locally grown/made products, especially specialty products. However, this is a very small niche, and with the exception of local farmer’s markets, and a few specialty stores, is limited to specific, selective products. This is clearly not a mass retail concept and would certainly have issues should it be applied to a major retailer, trying to appeal to a mass market.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 5 months ago

This is a good idea taken too far, at least as a replicable business concept. Most of the “high-end” stores here sell lots of locally produced items, but they sell other things as well. There are also local farmer’s markets every weekend, which seems like a more appropriate venue for local-only merchandising. As pointed out above, local doesn’t necessarily mean better in any sense, and such a strategy would preclude, for example, carrying heritage-bred meats and other products that exemplify the kinds of businesses consumers may want to support. Yes, the shipping has an environmental cost, but the product and its impact must be considered in total.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

I’ve heard people in the U.S. espousing this concept before. While there is great inherent interest in the idea of buying locally grown organic products, that will severely limit the variety of food available to consumers because not all foods grow well in all climates. For some consumers this may be a satisfactory and desirable situation, but not for all consumers. Some consumers may like buying products that are locally grown and then fill in with products from other locations.

Joanna Kennedy
Guest
Joanna Kennedy
14 years 5 months ago

It’s like a permanent farmer’s market–it could certainly work in California.

It’s refreshing to see a business owner trying to position outside of pricing and promotional strategies.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
14 years 5 months ago

If everything we consumers want in a grocery store can be grown or made within 50 miles of the store, it’s could be a “go” in America. But where is the U.S. locale where apples, oranges, kiwis, beef, lamb, halibut, Spanish olives and milk all are created within 50 miles of any store?

Consumers like to be locally-loyal and will support locally-grown and produced products but they also want what they want, and will buy such items, even if they aren’t local? Macadamia nuts, anyone?

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

This concept could work anywhere provided people understand it. It is not designed to be a supermarket where customers can buy anything and everything they want, produced by someone local. It is designed to be a showcase for local producers.

Thomas Mediger
Guest
Thomas Mediger
14 years 5 months ago

The problem with this concept is that buying 100% local does not automatically mean that it is the best for the environment. It could take more fertilizers due to soil inadequate soil conditions or it may consume more fuel because truckloads and shipping containers aren’t optimized. The savvy shopper is beginning to figure this out faster that the retail industry can react. I don’t see this as a viable long-term business model. I think concessions will have to be made in order to have a consumer base large enough to remain in business.

Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
14 years 5 months ago

The grocery store is the one place that consumers really do expect to see local products, and do typically support their local producers.

I suspect it would be very difficult to fill out a complete store with the breadth of goods required. Specialization is what makes the American economy profitable, which means that there will be no local producers of many goods.

One approach could be to use “Shop Local” branding in your communication with your clients, and dedicate certain shelves and/or signage to those items that meet your criteria. This would need to be well beyond the manufacturer provided labeling.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Well known local products alway have a strong appeal. For example Ale-8-One is a soft drink in Winchester, Kentucky. It’s a local favorite served in restaurants and sold in supermarkets. Vernors in Detroit is another example.

There is always going to be some loyalty but I doubt anyplace has enough locally made products to fill a grocery store adequately. We all have some degree of loyalty but the end the price is the major factor in our buying decisions. Otherwise this concept would have been wide spread long ago.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

The US has about 5 times the population of the UK. So the probable minimum potential of American versions of Sussex and the City is 5 locations.

It’s important that Mr. Innes buys products processed within 50 miles that include ingredients originating from well beyond that perimeter (cocoa). There are many deli’s and groceries in Brooklyn that source at least half their volume from food processors within 50 miles. Of course, the ingredients come from much further away.

If the price is right, shoppers always like to buy local, and it gives the grocer something nice to say besides the price. Local pride is always a great publicity generator. Driving traffic via publicity usually costs a lot less than paid advertising.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

How much does the proximity of manufacture factor into the average American’s purchasing decisions?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...