Going local: good for business, good for Scotland

'We support local' price tags

The SGF Go Local Programme is helping support the recovery & regrowth of Scotland’s food and drink sector, as well as helping local retailers benefit from a rise in consumer interest in Scottish products.

One of the many consequences of the pandemic was an apparent rapid increase in consumer interest in buying local. There were a number of reasons for this, with more shoppers than ever keen to support local producers and retailers as lockdown forced people to narrow their focus onto their immediate surroundings. Availability issues were also critical back at the beginning of the pandemic, when many major suppliers were either struggling to produce enough stock or, worse, prioritising supplies to supermarkets over local retailers.

Those availability issues have obviously returned – and with a vengeance – so there is arguably no better time to take a fresh look at what’s available locally. Local producers can often be a lot more flexible and creative, and the growing interest in local, regional and national products means there is a market for more artisan, arguably higher quality local produce.

With local retailers being forced to find stock wherever they can, why not look on your doorstep?

The SGF Go Local Programme is helping local retailers do just that. Funded by the Scottish Government, the programme was created specifically to help convenience retailers across Scotland provide a greater range of Scottish products to their shoppers – and match funding of up to £5,000 per store was made available. The programme was designed to aid the economic recovery of Scotland’s’ food and drink sector by increasing the sales of Scottish local products in the convenience sector to help mitigate losses in other channels as a result of Covid 19.

The closure of foodservices, hospitality and school sectors because of the pandemic considerably reduced the home market for Scottish producers and manufacturers, with a significant reduction of pre-Covid outlets available for these products. As consumers turned out-of-home eating spend towards supermarkets and convenience stores, coupled with being physically confined to local areas, there was greater exposure to shopping local, and buying locally sourced products.

The project aims to support convenience stores throughout Scotland to provide dedicated, long term display space for locally sourced Scottish products, with a bias towards fresh and healthy, coupled with enhanced consumer engagement, and helps retailers achieve this. The application process formally ended on 31 August, but SGF says “this window may be extended subject to the number of applications received”.

The project is being delivered in partnership with Scotland Food & Drink and aims to support convenience stores throughout Scotland to provide dedicated, long term display space for locally-sourced Scottish products, with a bias towards fresh and healthy, coupled with enhanced consumer engagement.

Outlets who took part in the initial pilot saw a 40% increase in sales of local products and delivered additional local economic benefits in excess of £157,000 per store.

The programme enables stores to support local, Scottish producers and give these businesses a vital route to market to help with the recovery and regrowth from Covid-19.

Programme Director Jamie Buchanan says: “Working in close partnership with Scotland Food & Drink (SF&D) to develop a sourcing strategy not only provides retailers access to new products, it also provides suppliers access to the retail market – a real win win.

“Our collaboration with SF&D also delivered strong branding which tapped into a national marketing plan to create great in store theatre and drive the consumer message – ‘We Support Local’.

“We launched a 10-store pilot on the 1 December 2020 and following a robust selection process chose 10 geographically and demographically diverse stores across a range of fascia groups to prove proof of concept. Each of the stores has received grant funding to enable them to maximise the range of Scottish products they offer to customers which in turn enables the stores to support local, Scottish producers and give these businesses a vital route to market.

“Much as there are many common product ranges across stores, the programme is deliberately flexible to ensure the areas developed and ranges introduced are right for each store. This approach has allowed us to deliver a diverse range of developments from in store butchers to food-to-go production.”

The selection criteria for funding aims takes a number of factors into consideration. These include:

  • a fair spread across fascia groups
  • geographic location
  • programme potential
  • demographics
  • date of application

All stores selected for the programme will be approved by the SGF for the purposes of fairness and transparency. The grants for successful applicants will be released on the completion of the agreed work, which must be completed within six months of grant approval.

Participating in the programme not only gives retailers access to the SGF’s and Scotland Food & Drink’s teams to help develop their store local proposition, it also allows them to play a crucial role in the recovery and regrowth of Scotland’s food and drink industry by providing new routes to market for producers.

“As a Scottish organisation that operates in both the on- and off-trades, we know better than most the commercial impact that Covid has had on local suppliers,” says Paul Stirling, Group Retail Director at G101.

“We were delighted to participate in the pilot programme to offer support to local suppliers, which sits well with our principles of offering our customers greater value, choice and quality. The application process was straightforward, the commitment to receive the grant clear, and the additional space dedicated to Scottish products is working well for us.”

And supporting local is far more than a stop gap during a pandemic. Thanks to reduced food miles, products are better for the environment and thanks to reduced time in the supply chain are fresher and therefore more nutritious.

The biggest impact, however, is that on the local economy – by supporting local, retailers can strengthen the local food economy, sustain local jobs, which in turn provides money that is spent in the local store.