Strong trading with bumper 2018 - Emma Niven, Loch Leven's Larder

What’s been happening at the Larder recently? 2018 was a bumper year, with our new Greenhouse Café, artisan bakery, food hall, tasting room all opening, and Hunters of Kinross butchers joining us. We were recognised as the Best Place for Women to Work by Business Women Scotland and Independent Retailer of the Year by Perthshire Chamber of Commerce. We ran our 2nd Broccoli Festival, opened a 2.5K loop around our fields and brought Parkrun to Loch Leven (recently voted one of the most scenic Parkruns in Scotland by The Scotsman). 2019 kicked off with being a Nessie at this year’s Speciality Food Show - an idea based on the BBC programme Dragon’s Den. I was genuinely impressed by the passion and emotion of all the suppliers who took part. Creating something from scratch is such an intense, hard but rewarding experience. Having been through this myself with the Larder gave me a special insight and empathy with the process that the competitors had gone through.

How has business been in the past year? Trading has been strong over the last year. Destination businesses are very weather dependent, so the snow in March hit us hard. We had a strong Easter followed by a dry and sunny summer, and recorded solid trading despite the constant construction site building our new extension from July to October. Our two 2018 expansions - Food Hall and Greenhouse Cafe have benefited the business by a 25% increase on sales and visitor numbers.

What trends are you seeing in retail now and what are the main issues affecting your business both positive and negative? The swing from high street retail to rural destinations continues as destination businesses need to be offering more than just retail, and try to envelope retail with leisure. Our biggest challenge is business rates currently. Often councils seek to help struggling high street retail but pass this burden onto successful rural businesses and it’s more than time to overhaul this in favour of a fairer modernised and progressive taxation.

How do you see bricks and mortar shops shaping in the future? The future of retailing is strong, despite what we may read in the press. Shopping has to be a pleasurable experience that offers more than the simple purchase. This means retailers must work harder to attract the customer in, engage it with browsing and inspirational ideas, and offer diversity of products to suit all tastes.

How do you think tourism numbers and the tourist spend this year compares to last year? Tourist numbers are difficult to predict and measure in our business but I suspect Brexit uncertainty may encourage staycation holidays for UK tourists and a weak Sterling may encourage overseas visitors to travel here. The vast majority of our spend is local and indeed that is our target market. The tourist spend is extra. We rely on repeat custom every week of the year to smooth out unpredictable seasonality.

Any new product lines which have done particularly well with your customers? We have a wonderful local pottery on our doorstep, JS Ceramics of Kinnesswood. It is beautifully Scottish and fits well with our brand and appeals to locals and tourists alike. It’s always a plus for us when we can champion local businesses, whether it’s a craftsperson or a food producer such as Coul Brewing from Glenrothes or Loch Leven Brewery from Kinross.

What one or two products stand out for your business in terms of sales? Cards and food

What is you biggest success and/or your worst mistake! Biggest success Trusting my own instincts and ability and developing a great team. Having the confidence to stay true to my core values.

Worst mistake Allowing consultants to undermine the above.

Do you have a favourite anecdote about your business? My favourite story of all time was in the early days when I took a phone call from a customer who had one job and one job only which was to get beetroot for Hogmanay. We had closed like everyone else due to the time but nevertheless, we came up with a plan. I left the beetroot in a secret location and took no charge for the produce. Said customer picked it up on their way home. The job giver was none the wiser. The following week I received flowers from the customer for saving their bacon! It’s the small things for me that have and do always matter and what makes the bigger things happen naturally.

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