South Devon's Christmas shoppers seek comfort and joy from independent retailers

Joseph Bulmer

New research has revealed that after months of pandemic, nine out of ten shoppers are craving the friendly service of farm shops and local retailers this Christmas.

The study by NFU Mutual has also shown that nearly a third of shoppers are using independent local retailers more than before the pandemic, while 42% want to help smaller businesses that may be struggling because of Covid.

One such example of the local options available is Darts Farm, a family-run local business near Exeter in Devon, which is at the heart of a thriving community of local producers and suppliers.

The business began with a humble farm shop hut almost 50 years ago and over the years has evolved into a thriving lifestyle shopping destination with a working farm at its heart. Alongside its bustling food hall, it also stocks a whole host of items including gifts, clothing, home and garden goods and toys.

Joint owner Michael Dart explained: “The pandemic has had an incredible impact and we have really noticed that customers want fresh, locally produced goods even more as a result.

“We work with many local suppliers and that supply chain has proved to be incredibly important in ensuring we can deliver what our customers want. People have definitely changed their shopping habits and their awareness has changed as well.

“Food was a big thing during lockdown with lots of us cooking more at home and sourcing local ingredients so we could try new recipes. Using good produce became even more important. There is definitely a greater understanding now of the benefits of buying local.”

Nourish Zero Waste Shop (based in Ashburton and Exeter) is another local company which believes that the power of buying local is what has led to the continued success of her zero waste shops in Devon.

Sarah Martin launched Nourish in 2018, a packaging free grocery store where customers bring their own containers to purchase produce. It stocks a range of items including pasta, grains, nuts, lentils, cereals, tea and coffee, olive oils and even cleaning products.