Anyone closely following Woodside Arran in the year since our first blog article will have done well to miss the fact that we have been promoting a mobile shop called The Real Food Shop. Since we first brought the shop up all the way from the south of England it has been a most insightful experience for all involved, so we thought it would be a good idea to share some of our experiences of running a mobile shop on the Isle of Arran.
Accessibility not being the key advantage of having a farm in High Kildonan, our original goal was to make our produce available in villages around the island. From this point of view the shop has been a real success as we have been able to carry organic fruit and veg as well as locally-sourced produce to villages as far afield as possible from our base in Kildonan (yes we mean you Lochranza). We are also delighted by the reaction to the shop in places that no longer have grocery stores, and it's been most rewarding to see local people filling up their shopping baskets with what we consider to be the best quality produce available here as well as more people finding out about what we are up to down on the farm.
You might have guessed by this stage of the blog post that it has not all been plain sailing. A key challenge has been ensuring a regular supply of our most popular products. Our delicious rare breed sausages have gone down a treat, but part of their value is not surprisingly that they are indeed rare, so it's not always possible to have them available in the shop. It can be difficult to explain this to those people who have eagerly returned for a second helping of sausages only to be disappointed that we have none left in stock.
It is a not dissimilar story with the milk - after we went to great efforts to set up a supply line to bring good quality milk to the island, that supply line broke down for a number of reasons, inevitably leading customers to be disappointed we had no milk. As the old saying goes we shall not be crying over spilt milk and are again looking to set up a regular supply line, but we hope we haven't lost any customers as a result!
Probably the biggest challenge has been, you know, that small matter of making the shop viable and a profitable contribution towards the vision of our social enterprise. There are obviously a number of costs involved in running the shop so a minimum amount of footfall is required to break even. Unfortunately maintaining a schedule in villages where we have only seen a trickle of interest has just not been sustainable and we've had to drop villages off our route.
Even in the larger villages where we have seen more interest, it is still very hard to break even, so it can be difficult to justify spending the time to take the shop out when there are so many time consuming tasks demanding our attention on the farm.
In spite of these challenges, we will be continuing to visit Arran's villages according to our Summer and Autumn 2018 schedule. We are always evaluating the best ways to make our social enterprise work so we may have to tweak things in the long run, but for the moment a big Thank You to those who have supported us so far - we hope you are enjoying the real food!