Inspiring Independent: Green Valley Cyder Barn

20 March, 2015

Green Valley Cyder is concession in the Darts Farm shop near Exeter,  where owners Nick Pring (pictured right) and Chris Coles make and sell cider. Beyond an impressive range of bottled ciders and beers, customers can watch cider being made in the company’s own press. Green Valley also sells draught cider with plenty of opportunities for tasting – both of its own range and for suppliers to show off their wares in the farm shop’s main food hall.

Sum up your shop: The Green Valley Ale & Cider Barn is the finest cider and beer shop in the south west of England.

What sets you apart from other drinks retailers? The Barn offers the finest selection of ciders and beers. A key element is that the cidermaking process can be viewed from the retail area and customers can engage in conversation with the cidermakers and taste the freshly pressed juice as well as the finished ciders.

Who is your fiercest competitor? As a specialist retailer the competition is less strong, but all good retailers, both in shop and online, are our competitors.

How do you maintain an edge? By providing customers with a strikingly different combined range of craft ciders and beers blended with the opportunity to taste and discuss the products with friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff with a collective 120 years of drinks industry knowledge. Customers are encouraged to blend cider to suit their own taste and we run tutored cider tasting events as well as brewery tastings.

How do you keep customers coming back? Being sited within the multi-award- winning Darts Farm, which is acknowledged as a “destination” for visitors to the south west, is a significant plus. As we have developed the shop over the past 10 years it has become well known for its range of 200 craft ciders and 350 beers. These are seasonally refreshed with, for example, more than 60 Christmas beers in the run- up to the festivities. New listings are highlighted and available for tasting and cider and beer “festivals in a box” are prepared for customers.

What area of the business is performing best at the moment? Fruit ciders showed strong growth in 2014 with craft beers, particularly those influenced by the American style of pale ale, also growing strongly. Customers have shown far greater interest in our range of continental beers and we have observed a growing appreciation of the different styles of beer from across the world. A sunny summer will always lift cider sales so the Green Valley range performed very well in 2014.

What's your biggest challenge as a retailer? Our greatest challenge is to develop a sufficiently large area within the farm shop and our mixed retail and production business unit for more retail space to accommodate our growing ranges of ciders, beers, fruit wines and liqueurs. As well as the retail space there is also the need for space for the necessary supporting stock storage.

Give us your top retailing tip: We work hard to make sure our customers enjoy their shopping experience and that they feel valued and welcome.

What has been your biggest business mistake? Probably giving insufficient time to paperwork in general and allowing this side of the business to fall behind. It is not so much fun but it is a very important part of a successful business.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? To introduce a retail area for ciders and beers into the wholesale cidermaking business as Darts Farm Shopping Village started to develop nearly 20 years ago.

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English wine: a happy harvest for Christmas

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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