Press Release– Apley Farm Shop’s fifth anniversary
by Lady Harriet Hamilton, 17 August 2016
Five years in the making – Apley Farm Shop five years on
Having opened in the coldest winter in decades, when temperatures dropped to -19°C in parts of Shropshire, Apley Farm Shop considers how it’s developed in its first five years.
Lady Hamilton, Marketing Manager, explained “It’s 5 years since we opened Apley Farm Shop on March 31st, 2011. Being open 7 days a week means it’s non-stop hard work, but we’re delighted with the progress & the way it’s developed”.
Apley Estate owner Lord Hamilton began “We’ve stuck to our principles of supplying local food from local producers to local people. Most customers come from a radius of about 30 miles & most of our food comes from Shropshire & its surrounding counties.”
Head Gardener Phil Allen explained “The development of Apley Walled Garden into a mini horticultural business starting in 2013 wasn’t part of the original farm shop business plan, but it’s happened & I’m happy to say is a huge success, supplying the farm shop & Creamery café as well as local restaurants & Telford university campus. The farm shop sells veg boxes in two sizes & private tours have proved very popular with local groups.”
Lady [Harriet] Hamilton, Marketing Manager added “If we under-estimated anything, it was how much marketing goes into running this type of business, especially one as diverse as ours. Marketing is now a whole profession in its own right, in a way it never was even just 20-30 years ago. Marketing is a science, using technology to full effect. But it’s funny how some of the more traditional methods of marketing are still the most effective for farm shops – word of mouth, leaflets & roadsigns, though Facebook is hugely important. We’ve installed two in-store TVs on showing short films, which help to keep customers up to date with all that’s going on.”
General Manager Tina Buckland commented “Event management takes up more time than originally envisaged, but it seems worthwhile, as each event attracts new visitors, who are new to us. These events put us on the wider map too & get our name known more widely.”
Every year, the shop celebrates Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day, Easter & Christmas, as well as organising events for the May bank holiday, Open Farm Shop, Apley Classic Motor Day, holiday clubs for the children in August, the Harvest Fair, Spookley Pumpkin Festival & Christmas Food Fair. Plus there’s the monthly Apley Cookery Club, regular Craft Fairs too, food awareness weeks & extra days like Shrove Tuesday & Father’s Day.
Graeme Manton, Apley Estate land agent added “We’ve planted 5 trees along the exit drive, one for every year the shop has been open & look forward to planting a whole avenue over time, of course !”
“So much more than a farm shop” has become our by-line & that really rings truer every day” continued Lady Hamilton.
We’ve won several awards & accolades since opening including a FARMA Rising Star award, being listed in the the BBC Good Food Magazine UK’s Top Ten Destination farm shops, offering “great food, great fun, great shopping”. To add to that, in December that year it was named in the top three farm shop restaurants in the Sunday Times by restaurant critic AA Gill. This year, we’ve entered the Guild of Fine Foods Great Taste Awards for the first time.
Lady Hamilton added “The Courtyard Shopping concept has grown with the arrival of the Apley Plant Centre & Big Little Things [florists & gifts] in 2015. The site now hosts 9 businesses, so it really is now ‘so much more than a Farm Shop’, as our strap-line says.”
General Manager Tina Buckland leads the Apley staff training & development programme which is now more extensive & important than ever.
By 2015, we had taken the butchery counter in-house. The Apley butchers, Craig Whitehouse & Jon Callinswood, added “Having just picked up some awards for our sausages, we’re busier than ever. We’re right next to the Delicatessen, which we supply with our award-winning pork & game pies.“ By 2014, we had built another kitchen for our handmade range & increased the butcher’s capacity by adding a chilled hanging room.
Lady Hamilton continued “We launched our online shop just about when I expected to, but not how. We’re one of a group of online DeliShops & that business model works very well for us. It mixes Click & Collect & Home Delivery options, which suits our diverse customer base. It’s made us even busier, but we’ve just stepped up a gear to keep pace!”
On our Delicatessen counter, our Handmade at Apley range increases every year, using very local ingredients. Plus we have exciting plans in the pipeline for selling nationwide one of our Apley products. A local brewery moved into a converted farm building across the field from the farm shop, who brew an Apley range especially for us.
Some plans have inevitably not worked as well as expected, such as the short courses on rural topics which we ran in our Conference Room. Bookings for the latter happily increase year on year.
Some things haven’t changed enormously – Pigg’s Playbarn remains as popular as ever, enjoying a partnership with two local children’s activity providers – Educating Kids Outdoors (EKO) & Activ8 who run activities on the Skylark Nature Trail.
The cake production expanded after 2 years into its own kitchen – a converted stable. The Creamery Café is busier, but otherwise continues as it always has, offering breakfasts, coffees, teas, cakes & lunches all year round. “I have organised four Apley Archives exhibitions in the café, which is another project in itself !“ added Lady Hamilton.
Lady Harriet Hamilton concluded “Every year we have a bank of plans, some of which materialise sooner than others. A visiting circus, the first Apley cookbook, the ‘All in the Bag’ ready-to-cook meal packages & an ‘Apley To Go’ range are all on my radar for 2017. But of course it’s always important to take time for us to consolidate & improve what we already do, before starting new projects.”
Enquiries@apleyfarmshop.co.uk or 01952 730 345
Apley Farm Shop is one of Shropshire’s top 3 farm shops, focussing on tasty, local & seasonal food, reducing food miles & supporting the local economy. The Farm Shop, butcher & delicatessen source local food & drink from the Apley Estate, Apley Walled Gardens & the best local food & drink suppliers from Shropshire & the surrounding counties. The site also includes a butcher & delicatessen, the Creamery Café Restaurant, Piggs’s Playbarn, Scotty’s Animal Park, Alley Katz Toy Shop, Skylark Nature Trail & Annie’s Reiki Centre.