Susan Montgomery, Ardardan Estate Farm Shop, Cardross

Having run our family business based on farming and farm retail for over 40 years I guess us Montys can say without doubt that we have seen a lot of changes in the industry over our time. What we realize now is that just nicely setting out products, no matter how brilliant those products might be, has not been enough to grab the interest of today’s shopper. In the past few years we have seen competition rise from local quality multiples which could have impacted hugely on our food offering especially, as well as the ever evident black cloud of online retailers looking over our shoulder. This is an inevitable scenario in most areas and so like with any competition we figure the only way to tackle it is to rise up and use it as a huge positive to keep our standards and ambition going.

We are extremely lucky here at Ardardan as we have a couple of unique aspects that no-one could ever replicate; our location on the bonnie banks of the Clyde and our brilliant team. Our aim is to strive to give our visitors no matter whether local or on their holidays the opportunity to experience our lovely wee part of the world. There’s no denying that no matter how good the products we will never be the only place to buy the majority of our them (with the exception of our own meat and homemade produce) and there is little chance that we can compete on price on most things. What we can do however is give a five star service, present products to the best of our ability and give as much value for the quality offering that we provide. For example if buying a plant and a pot we offer the customer if they would like us to pot it up for them. In turn our visitors have a unique experience and as they leave are hopefully planning their next visit.

While it might not seem it to some, what we offer requires skill and an unfaltering eye for detail.  By giving each visitor a special experience, we feel that as long as the products behind that fit then the sales come.  We have certainly found this to be the case.  With our cheese counter, for example, some would say we get too pernickety about small things and the presentation of it but for us this is the central point of the shop and it is where theatre is created.   Cheese for us in our farm shop section has been a great success over the past few years and the reason is because we have great trust in the quality of our cheese coming from Clark’s Speciality Food, we have armed ourselves with knowledge and take time over the presentation.   We are also very conscious of speaking to customers on a personal level that doesn’t patronise but understands that many people may want to look at the counter but are slightly intimidated to ask because they don’t know where to start.  In relating to our guest in an honest as opposed to “salesy” way we are able to achieve a trust and therefore repeat visits.

My mum has always drummed into us that “retail is detail”.  While my sister and I might have just thought this was one of those things mum says we now find ourselves repeating it to our team and relating it to all aspects of our business.   After all no matter the technology, trends to come in retail and competition from multiples surely people will always want to buy from people to an extent and have the best experience they possibly can doing so.  We’ll keep trying anyway! 

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