As you wind down the country roads towards the entrance of the Daylesford Store, just a short distance from the popular Soho Farmhouse, it feels as if Hollywood has produced a version of English countryside with the cliched sights of pheasants running aimlessly into the road and the odd deer roaming in the adjacent field.
Upon arrival in the busy car-park, an impressive village of stores, spa, restaurant, cafe and cooking school await, adorned with natural tones and a theme of hearts styled into the surroundings as a consistent feature. Daylesford wants to put heart into the customer experience.
Daylesford Organic celebrates the twenty year anniversary of its Cotswolds Farmshop culminating in a very special weekend event in the autumn to mark two decades of this very special retail proposition.
The idea for the Daylesford business started forty years ago when Carole Bamford OBE recognised the importance and benefits of organic farming. That passion to build her own knowledge about the food supply chain and how to feed her own family with more organic produce has grown into a much respected brand and pioneer of organic living.
It is fair to highlight at this early stage that Daylesford and Bamford products are beyond the budget of many. Indeed the reality of constantly increasing food prices in the weekly shop, makes the idea of a spending over £5 for a pouch of broth somewhat indulgent.
This is unapologetically luxury retail but one delivering on a very authentic vision day after day, where some of the businesses main competitors have recently become a little stuck.
The most impactful part of the Daylesford experience for me was the sheer enthusiasm with which colleagues talk about the product offer. Each seemed to have significant knowledge of the business, the supply chain and why it all matters.
Many luxury retail propositions can often fall at the final hurdle. For all the money invested in the perfect concept store and in the training of the first tier of ambassadors representing the brand, there can be a lack of consistency in delivery across every touch point. This did not seem to be the experience for hundreds of happy Daylesford customers that day.
Despite the bitterly cold weather, outside in the grounds of the little shopping oasis, one could overhear passionate colleagues from the gardening store helping a novice planter pick out some bulbs for the time of year and enjoying the opportunity to help with sensible advice. In the restaurant, a waiter explained every element of the special menu with great care. There is something in the Daylesford (organic) water that seems to have the majority of colleagues living, breathing and genuinely believing in the vision.
The retailer’s main philosophy is that if you nourish and respect the land, it will give back to you, with nourishing, flavoursome food. As more consumers want to engage with knowledge of the food chain, this is something that the Daylesford brand has delivered on for decades.
In 2020, sales revenue of organic food and drink in the United Kingdom amounted to £2.6 billion pounds. It was the biggest rise in organic food sales for 15 years amounting to a 12.6% increase. Growth has been steady since 2011 after a dip from 2009-2011 when shoppers were under financial pressure with reduced food shopping budgets and consequently flocked to value supermarket retailers like Aldi and Lidl.
However enforced lockdowns during 2020-21 saw many consumers focus on their own food habits again and make big changes. Certainly social conscience positively impacted sales in the UK, with much more consideration of environmental impact and self care from shoppers who had the budgets to do so. Most grocery retailers have developed each of their offers with more organic and sustainably-sourced produce. As one of the premium price points in the market place, one might ask why Daylesford has managed to thrive.
As an early adopter to organic, Daylesford is making change by setting ambitious targets and driving more change through the supply chain. The brand states that it is dedicated to growing, producing and cooking seasonal organic food underpinned by sustainable practice and with 100% self-sufficiency.
Daylesford has four smaller stores in London, and also offers produce through the online grocery retailer Ocado. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Cotswolds store will certainly be an on-brand experience. A Harvest Festival is planned for September with a very British dog-show, workshops to inspire with artisans and guest producers giving demonstrations and children friendly activities including games and rides. Shoppers are also invited to make a toast at the nearby Wild Rabbit, a traditional British inn also owned by the group.
Some reviewers have called the Daylesford experience ‘expensive’ and even ‘pretentious’ with the ex GQ editor and author Dylan Jones calling it “the poshest shop in Britain”, yet many loyal and happy customers come back time after time for a delivery of authentic expertise and high quality produce. On entry, a converted horse box served local cyclists with a pit-stop of a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea. Sitting with pink faces next to a roaring open fire outside, there seemed to be a genuine gratitude that such a place exists.