Q&A: Loch Fyne’s growing mail-order business
Founded more than 30 years ago Loch Fyne Oysters, operates at the head of Loch Fyne in Argyllshire, Scotland. Today, the employee-owned company produces 1.5 million oysters and features a cluster of businesses, including a mail-order operation and a farm shop. In 1998, Loch Fyne Restaurants opened as an accompaniment to Loch Fyne Oysters, acquired by British pub operator and brewer Greene King in 2007.
Keen to expand the reach of its seafood products to new markets, Loch Fyne Oysters has just launched a range of gift boxes. SeafoodSource recently caught up with Virginia Sumsion, marketing manager at Loch Fyne Oysters.
Partos: Why did you launch the gift boxes? Who are you targeting?
Sumsion: The boxes are for our mail order business and at this time of year, post-Christmas and springtime. We always want to try something new, to encourage new growth. And the boxes make the most of seasonal products. The move broadens the range of products available by mail order. We currently have about 100 products in that range. There are no geographical boundaries to the boxes, although we can’t send to North America or Australia, due to import rules.
We do have a loyal home-delivery base, but we would like to attract new people, for example, those who may never have tried an oyster and are keen to try other products. We’re also looking to expand to a younger market, although the gift boxes are targeted at a diverse range of shoppers.
Tell me about the range.
They are all put together here, at Loch Fyne Oysters. In fact, the mail-order business works in coordination with the farm shop. This means that the shop stocks products that we’ll use for mail order; it’s a complimentary. The gift boxes showcase the best of Loch Fyne produce and include The Alfresco, For Him, For Her and the Luxury Sunday Lunch, with prices ranging from GBP 26 to GBP 60. The Sunday lunch box, for example, contains products from the “Food from Argyll” group and aims to expand the market to a more traditional audience. Members of the group include Bumble puddings and Winston Churchill venison, and the box also features Loch Fyne smoked salmon pate, Loch Fyne gravadlax and tubs of Loch Fyne rollmop herrings.
How big is Loch Fyne Oysters’ mail-order business?
Home delivery, which is steadily growing year-on-year, represents about 10 percent of our overall sales [about GBP 11 million]. The business is earnestly skewed toward Christmas, and we would like to see more mail orders at other times of the year. In addition to mail order, we have about another 50 products, some are more geared toward trade.
The advantage of having different elements to the overall overarching business and not putting in our eggs in one basket is that when one area is not so good, the other tends to compensate. Exports, for example, were very good last year, while business at home — hotels and restaurants — were affected by the economic downturn.