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  • Writer's pictureLiz Kameen

A veg box is for life*, not just for Christmas

*this should really say 'a way of life' but then it didn't work! It's all about the heading haha.

We've noticed a pattern, and wanted to share it with our customers as our belief is that communication leads to better understanding and more mindful behaviour. This is by no means a rant, more of a ramble, any thoughts or feedback on any of this please let us know, we'd love to hear.

Since moving premises a few months ago now, there's been no change to our boxes but we've had around a 10% drop in box customers. Not one person cancelling their box has said the reason for cancelling was to do with quality or value or service, which is a relief! (and we've taken on other customers in the meantime, so this is more just about a behavioural trend that we've noticed and are trying to explore).

We think there are a couple of reasons - seasonality (the produce is just less interesting at this time of year, it's the hardest time to eat seasonally and also the boxes are pretty substantial with lots of brassicas) and the 'end' (or whatever this period is) of the pandemic, so people are happy to be out and about again / less reliant on food deliveries. Another local business has told us they have dropped from 500 to 2 (2?!?!?!) deliveries from during the pandemic to now. Where have those customers gone??

Pretty much every one of our customers who have cancelled have said they plan to use the shop instead - although we've not yet seen any corresponding increase in our shop takings, despite being open 2 days a week instead of 1.

This got us thinking....and we wanted to share our thoughts with you.

From a business perspective:

The boxes are what enable us to operate: By having monthly subscriptions we know how many customers we are supplying (and therefore how much to grow/harvest and how many rounds we need/how much time to spend on packing and delivering, etc etc). This is our constant and our raison d'etre.

The shop is purely an add-on: We don't want to be full time shop-keepers, we love the variety that comes with growing and doing the boxes and selling face2face in the shop. We think it's fab that we have box customers who top up with extra bits, and other customers who don't want/can't have a box but come and buy their week's worth of veg and fruit on a regular basis (i.e. we can rely on them coming in and know they actively want to avoid shopping elsewhere).

If all our customers switched to the shop, we would suddenly have a retail business rather than a box delivery business and we definitely wouldn't be sticking around if that was the case. The business model just doesn't work.. there is a reason that there are only one or two other (solely) greengrocer's in Denbighshire

From a customer perspective:

The boxes mean you are guaranteed your weekly veg and fruit: Yes it may seem a bit repetitive (especially at this time of year) but it comes to your door and you can't avoid it! You have paid for it and you have to use it. As someone who used to eat pretty badly at one time, I cannot believe how much better I feel from eating our produce, how much more confident I am at using (up) random veggies and making good meals from them and how much I love seasonal eating - and we hear this all the time from our customers. Even as costs go up for fuel, energy, food, surely what we / our families eat has got to be one of the most important things (pretty sure most of us would say that).

Going to the shop takes effort: Yes you may think it's easy to pop in but we've noticed our regular customers tend to have a time/day when they come in and that's how they remember. Otherwise it's too easy for life to get in the way and suddeny it's 2pm on a Friday and we're closed - easy to say 'shame they're not open on a Saturday / Monday' etc but the reality is we could be open 24/7 and still someone might not manage to come in even with the best will in the world - there has to be intent (otherwise it's just too easy to pick up extra bits at the supermarket and say 'just this once' - and then again the folllowing week...).

The shop is not a green-grocer's: You can't come in with your list and get everything you want. It's about having a veg box mindset and coming in to see what we have and then buying what you want - any one week we are likely to have a different selection, and once things run out that's it. We may only have one brassica in, or one type of green leaves - if you want leaves, you'll need to take what we have. For example, tomorrow we don't have much as nearly all of our amazing kale, purple sprouting broccoli, spinach and spring greens have gone into the boxes, the field is bare! So if someone stops getting a box because they want more choice, they may be disappointed.

Denbigh is pretty lucky to have a local veg box business, lots of places don't. We get lots of enquiries from people living further out who we can't deliver to but don't have an option of getting a box delivered.

Not sure we have any answers but hopefully this gives an idea of some of the issues we face - we know how much support we have, and are very appreciative of every single person who makes the choice to buy from us. And we know that boxes don't work for everyone all of the time. But if you're a box customer (and/or a weekly shop customer), you do and always will take priority because without you we wouldn't have a business.

Ultimately, if what you want to do is buy and eat organically grown /local produce from a small business then the box is the best way to do that, however hard it might feel at times. And if you no longer get a box and are wondering how to fit our veg and fruit back into your life, drop us an email and we'll get you back on the round (or help you work out how to use the box better - we can recommend some cook books and websites)! Remember if you struggle with a regular, particularly during winter, then you can drop down to a small - we have a few customers who do this.

If a box really isn't for you at the moment, then how about making a commitment to using the shop regardless of what's in stock. And if you do really want to use the shop but find that life gets in the way - have a read of this blog we wrote last summer which gives some tips on how to shop locally and avoid the supermarkets. Also, let us know and we'll do what we can to help you overcome the things stopping you!

Of course, if actually you've realised that our veg doesn't add anything to your life and you're happy to give it a miss then that's absolutely fine too! We just want to avoid people missing out who actually want it.

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