Sunday, May 23, 2010

Retail Not Right (Now)

At the farmer’s market, sometimes by phone (my apologies to the woman who called at 7:30am one morning that we could not accommodate her reservation) but more often since our article in the Oregonian, we get asked if we have a retail store.

People are always flummoxed when we tell them “no”. 

I can see the appeal of “doing retail”, opening a little spot where people could drop in for a tart and maybe some other goodies. A place to direct customers who buy from us at local farmer’s markets. But is it right for your business as a whole?

It depends on the goals of your business and food product(s).

We are product company, focusing on growing our line of tarts (hence the name of the blog). Our business and daily tart activities center around servicing current customers, while working on expanding our client base. This alone requires much focus and effort. From my current point of view, as she who runs the books (bookkeeping, not bookmaking) and expends much of the effort, our time is best spent continuing forward growing ourselves as a product. To branch off into a tart shop, or small café, would be a risk and effort undertaking I can’t justify.

This is not to say I’d never open a tart shop or small café under our company umbrella. The idea would need to be very carefully thought through. Details such as location (e.g. our current location is on a busy street, but is not conducive to foot traffic and doesn’t have much of a neighborhood surrounding, which immediately rules it out), marketing/planning for vagaries of retail and staffing come immediately to mind.

It could be right one day, just not right now.

In a bold move, Elizabeth of Sahagun Chocolates, who appeared on the Neely's FoodNetwork episode with us (which will air again June 17th), decided recently to scale down her retail operation in order to focus on the growing wholesale demand for her chocolates. I don’t doubt it was a tough decision as to where she should focus her time for the best (and growing) results.

On our current path, I am pleased with the rewards that come in landing a new client, having a current one excited about a new flavor we’ve developed, or realizing we’ve gotten a tad bit busier in the past weeks and it’s time to up our ingredients order or risk running out of items (oh, it’s happened). I enjoy meeting with buyers, food service directors, executive chefs and coffee house owners walking them through our product niche of tarts we’ve created and how they could be a growth product for them. I also enjoy time spent interacting with farmers discussing what we’re going to be using their produce for and… hmmm… I think I just bled into our next blog post!  

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