In the early days of the pandemic, Windy Arbour Farm Shop in Wigan saw exceptional demand with custom increasing to almost unmanageable levels, likened to “3 Christmas’s at once”. We chatted to owner Geoff Rigby about his experience of the pandemic and the impact it had on his business.
How did Windy Arbour have to adapt and innovate to cope with the pandemic?
As an essential food retailer, Windy Arbour had the authority and demand to stay open, however the decision to remain open was not taken lightly. To keep staff and customers safe, Windy Arbour had to adapt overnight to adhere to new regulations, from introducing signage, screens and sanitizer to changing the layout in store. The workforce at Windy Arbour also grew, with the business taking on out-of-work locals to help meet demand and fill the newly created roles. However, as the pandemic spread across the UK, 2 members of staff at Windy Arbour were struck with the virus causing the shop to close for a number of weeks.
With the shop back open, planning is underway to develop new ways to meet the Christmas demand in a new socially distanced world. The farm shop will be launching a range of Set Menu food boxes, click and collect orders and bookable slots for the all-important Christmas Tree pick!
Have you noticed an uplift in people wanting to support local businesses during lockdown?
The decision to stay open meant Windy Arbour staff were on the frontline in the peak of the outbreak. Everyone was working so hard; the feeling of warmth and gratitude from the local community was huge. To spread some cheer and stay connected to customers, Geoff used social channels to give daily updates from the shop, which soon became a phenomenon, being ranked the '2nd best reason to be cheerful in lockdown' by locals in the Wigan Observer.
Local Army recruit Tyler Burrows, home temporarily while training was paused in April & May, volunteered at Windy Arbour to help steward customers during lockdown
Do you think this support for local businesses will continue after lockdown eases?
As people return to work and school, Geoff recognises that customers may choose the convenience of shopping in large supermarkets. However, the new and regular faces that shopped at the farm during lockdown keep returning, often giving their thanks and appreciation for staff who put themselves at risk to serve the community. As they head towards the busy festive period, Windy Arbour are planning for another surge in demand as people continue to shop local this Christmas.
When times get hard keep going. Back yourself! Smile and don’t let sentiment stand in the way of progress.Geoff Rigby, Owner of Windy Arbour Farm Shop