Britain’s farm retail sector is achieving estimated sales of £1.4bn a year, following increased demand during the pandemic.
There are an estimated 1,581 farm retailers nationwide employing 25,000 people, according to a study by the Farm Retail Association (FRA) and Harper Adams University.
The study found that about a third of businesses in the sector have opened within the last 10 years, and 64% of businesses are expecting increased sales in 2022.
Sales have increased since the pandemic, with more consumers choosing to shop locally, resulting in 89% of businesses having seen sales rise since 2019.
Farm shops attracted customers because of their service, unique setting and quality of products, according to the study.
Staffing was reported as the greatest challenge for these businesses, with issues attracting and retaining high quality employees.
FRA chairman Rupert Evans said it was known anecdotally that consumers increasingly prefer to shop and support local businesses, and that the data confirmed this.
Mr Evans said: “The trust was built up through the pandemic as farm retailers could adapt quickly to introduce Covid-safe measures and people felt safer shopping in smaller environments as opposed to large supermarkets. We think the pandemic will have changed shopping habits for many and will be here to stay.”
The research was funded by the FRA and carried out by the university.
Alastair Boot, senior lecturer at Harper Adams said: “We believe this is the first substantial survey of its kind into farm retail. It establishes the growth of the sector and its enormous value to local economies.
“It is clear that farm shops offer a different experience to high street shopping through the quality of their produce and their standard of service – and that this difference is increasingly appreciated by customers”.