Online butcher Farmison & Co is one of the many DTC brands that has performed well during the pandemic. Having just opened its first brick-and-mortar butchers next to its headquarters in Ripon, North Yorkshire, innovation strategist Charlie Lloyd paid it a visit to find out more.
Farmison & Co is an online butcher that offers nationwide delivery of its range of Yorkshire-bred meat from its HQ in the small North Yorkshire cathedral city of Ripon. Despite supermarkets and local butchers staying open to customers during the various lockdowns of the pandemic in the UK, Farmison’s offer of quality meet delivered straight to customers’ doors has proved incredibly popular while many consumers have been reticent to shop in-person at stores; since 2019, Farmison’s sales volume has grown by a whopping 300%.
Powered by endless aisle
Off the back off this success online, Farmison, like so many DTC players before it, has moved forward by opening its first ever physical retail store. A visit to Cut by Farmison & Co is all it takes to realise, however, that that this is neither a traditional butchers, nor does it represent a break from the brand’s focus on ecommerce.
Central to the new concept is omnichannel retail. The store welcomes walk-in customers, but the offer is built around click-and-collect, allowing customers to shop from Farmison’s entire online inventory before picking up their order at the store within an hour, or on a day and time of their choosing. In the words of CEO and co-founder John Pallagi, to display their full product offering in-store would require the “longest butcher’s counter in the world”. Instead, Farmison makes use of the endless aisle. This can be used by consumers online before they visit, or accessed via screen at the store’s entrance for walk-in customers.
Theatricality and experience
While the store has been conceived first and foremost as a collection point for ecommerce customers, inside the store Farmison has ensured that it offers a premium and immersive experience. Cut by Farmison & Co eschews the traditional butcher’s counter in favour of a glass wall through which customers can view the master butcher at work, offering a touch of theatrically that promotes the expertise of the brand’s staff.
Tall refrigerated cabinets flank one wall of the store, containing a wide array of pre-packed products for walk-in customers, stocking the brand’s best sellers as well as its Saucepan Ready range of ragus, hotpots, curries and more. On the opposite wall, another cabinet displays a multitude of awards the brand has won over the past few years, while freestanding units in the middle of the store showcase cuts of meat almost as if they were pieces of fine jewellery in a premium department store. The store also offers a bespoke butchery service and regular in-store samplings and tasting sessions for its customers. To get the full omnichannel experience, I had ordered ahead and bought myself a haggis, which was brought to me within seconds of saying my name by a cheerful member of staff, in a branded cool bag containing a couple of icepacks for me to take home.
Cut by Farmison & Co has been launched as a proof-of-concept for the brand, which hopes to replicate the format as concessions at third-party high-quality food retailers across the country, and possibly even abroad too. A concession may not be able to offer one hour fulfilment of orders across its full online inventory – the Ripon store benefits from sitting right next door to its headquarters – but an omnichannel butchers specialising in click-and-collect makes a lot of sense as a small format concession: most of the meat can be fulfilled by Farminson’s existing delivery network, while the master butcher can provide some theatre from their domain over certain cuts of meat and bespoke service.
The physical switch
Creating a physical footprint has become part of the DTC playbook. Stores offer a means of developing brands’ relationships with their customers by immersing them in the brand and putting products into their hands. Like Farmison, many integrate their new stores into their pre-existing fulfilment operations to deliver an omnichannel experience, simultaneously promoting their core ecommerce offering and giving consumers a new touchpoint with which to connect with and experience the brand.
Others take a different tack. One of the veterans of DTC selling, cosmetics brand Avon, has used its first ever physical store in Los Angeles to develop a sense of community and showcase the expertise of the brands’ reps through workshops and events. Meanwhile, another beauty brand, Hong Kong-based Harmay, has used its burgeoning physical retail estate to provide a stark counterweight to its core ecommerce offering. Its design-led, statement physical stores are pure theatre, making the most of the experiential capabilities of physical retail. In so doing, Harmay is complementing its ecommerce offering by cutting against it completely.
To a multitude of ends, online brands like Farmison are repeatedly finding value in physical stores. And through its fast and friendly service, its refreshing format and its focus on its expertise and quality, this customer found plenty of value in Farmison’s first butcher’s shop too.
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