The pop-up project in Conwy is being run as a trial until Christmas and early indications are promising
Pop-up shops are becoming more prevalent as a way of testing out new retail concepts and in Colwyn Bay producers are combining their skills to test out a business model that, if successful, could be expanded to other locations within the county of Conwy. Produce Business UK finds out more about the producer-led concept seeking new ways of reaching consumers
Conwy Cynhaliol, an action group funded through the Rural Development Plan for Wales, is working with Conwy County Borough Council on an exciting pop-up retail initiative. The Conwy area is primarily a tourist destination, enjoying a massive influx of visitors during the summer, but at other times of year, particularly in winter, it can be very quiet.
The project partners have identified a lack of knowledge and publicity about the presence of local produce of any kind within the area and come up with ways local producers can connect much more with tourists as well as a local audience, so as to find new markets for their produce. Creating a pop-up shop within one of the main seaside tourist towns was seen as a priority.
Rhys Evans of Conwy Cynhaliol explains: “The Pop Up Shop is a new Colwyn Bay Townscape Heritage Project run in partnership with Conwy Communities First. The idea is to help local people who are just starting out in business as retail traders. This is a trial, an experiment, to see if there is a market for local produce in the town and if we can run a shop.
“Inside the shop are ‘trading pods’ which new businesses can access rent-free giving them the opportunity to test trade and develop a high-street presence. It also offers the opportunity to link into basic business support provided by Just the Business and to benefit from network links to Affinity business services and Conwy Business Centre.”
The shop is well located on the main street of Colwyn Bay and trading began at the beginning of September, and will continue two days a week until Christmas. A total of 14 local businesses are involved in the pop-up and are staffing it on a rota basis. Purchases are put through a single till, with each item possessing a code that denotes which producer is involved.
“We put posters in the window to capture attention the week before opening and we had a lot of people knocking on the doors, asking questions about the type of food to be sold here. It is a steep learning curve for us, and I am hopeful that it is going to work,” says Evans.
Participants in the pop up shop include fruit and vegetable businesses such as Cae Melwr from Llanwyrst, growers of a wide selection of vegetables ranging from pumpkins to potatoes and soft fruit such as strawberries. Belmont (Wholesale & Growers) from Llanddoged, Llanrws, a fourth generation family-run fruit and vegetable grower is also involved and there are other food producers retailing bread, biscuits and preserves.
Fresh produce growers are thin on the ground in north Wales because of the terrain which is much more suited to sheep rearing and so this pop-up concept is not for everyone. It is too far for us to travel and provide staff for a shop,” says Vince Mears from Treddafydd Organic Farm. “We started business selling to local outlets but have had to diversify into making preserves with much of our produce because the market is not there.”
Business to business
Although initial consumer response has been very encouraging, Evans wants to explore other avenues. “After being open for two weekends (four days) nearly 300 people have purchased from the shop, with many more people having visited,” says Evans. “It was great to see so many people returning and customers have said they would like to see more shops selling local produce.”
Now he is looking towards other businesses to boost trade: “We want to see more local produce being used by local businesses,” explains Evans. “We will be holding a tasting night in Colwyn Bay to encourage hoteliers and restaurateurs to see and taste the produce. If some of the producers can establish a relationship with consumers and with local businesses, then this will make the trial shop a success.
“If it is a success, and people like the concept, then we will look to open other shops elsewhere to showcase the fantastic food from the area. It will be good for the local economy.”
And there is a third target for Conwy Cynhaliol, as it tests out another idea. Thousands of visitors come to north Wales, particularly the Conwy area. This area covers popular resorts such as Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Caernarfon, and is adjacent to the Snowdonia National Park. Evans and his team believe there is a major opportunity to connect with those visitors and promote long-term buying relationships – if only those holidaymakers were aware of the local produce grown and reared in the area.
To this end, Conwy Cynhaliol has been targeting Tourist Information Centres (TICs) with a range of non-perishable local produce for sale to alert tourists to its availability and encourage sales. The scheme was launched in two TICs this summer, Llandudno and Conwy each of which attracts around 5,500 visitors a week at high season.
“It has been very successful in showcasing local produce,” says Evans. “Internet sales have been going through the roof and we aim to get into more TICs next year. We started quite late this year and need to be involved from the start of the season. We are also aiming to get into the Snowdonia Tourist Information Centres in order to widen the market still further.
“All the producers are very happy with this sales platform as a way of showcasing and promoting their products.”