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The food frontline: Liz Wilton, farm shop owner

Published on May 27, 2020
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The South West food and drink industry has been severely hit by lockdown as restaurants have closed and producers have lost their customers. Yet some businesses are experiencing an unprecedented boom, while others are pivoting in new and creative directions.

We spoke to foodies on the frontline about what’s been going down

Liz Wilton

Liz Wilton of The Good Food Stores runs two small farm shops in north Devon.

How has lockdown affected your business?

Turnover has doubled – but we’ve only managed to stay open because of the small producers like Chunk of Devon, East and West Bakery and Vicky’s Bread who have also kept going. We’re seeing people buying a lot more treats because they’re not eating out. The amount of chocolate, wine and sourdough we’ve sold …

How have you adapted?

We made the decision to not get additional staff and to reduce opening hours so we could cope if any of the team got ill or were self isolating. We’ve implemented constant hand washing and a one-person-in-the-shop-ata- time policy, as well as an email-and-collect order system. Week by week we’re making improvements; it’s a movable feast.

Has the local community been supportive?

Massively. We’ve had a lot of appreciation for being there. People are telling us they’ve made a decision to support local food businesses more and I think they feel that shopping here is like a warm hug; the supermarket can feel like a threatening environment.

What will you do after lockdown?

We’ll carry on doing the email-and-collect service as I think there’ll be a lot of fear when lockdown lifts, especially among the older generation, which will take a while to disappear.

I hope people who’ve shopped with us during this time will carry on, but I don’t think there’ll be the demand there is now. It’ll probably be similar to what happened when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall made his programmes about chicken a few years ago: at first we couldn’t keep up with demand but, after a while, people went back to their old habits.

I’d like to think that everyone will shop differently and maybe use the supermarket for their regular online shop, then come to us for nice stuff and treat it like a leisure activity because it’s a very pleasant experience.

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