You won’t be seeing a sale at Riverford this January – or at any other time. It might seem like we’re being mean, but the opposite is true: saying ‘no’ to discount marketing is fairest for everyone, including you!
Offers are everywhere. Banks offer you £150 to open an account, broadband companies have rock-bottom introductory tariffs, veg box suppliers give your fourth box free, supermarkets offer £20 off your first delivery… but where does all that money come from? Answer: someone else is made to pay for it, through inflated prices for existing customers, squeezing suppliers, or paying staff less.
It’s the model which almost all subscription businesses work to. If you can be bothered to be a ‘savvy shopper’ and spend your life forever switching suppliers you can do pretty well out of it, but as the service providers know full well, most of us are just too busy; or maybe we find a world where trust equates to ‘sucker’ so dispiriting that we would rather just ignore it and get duped.
For a while, we were part of the problem. We dipped our toes into the world of discount marketing, being persuaded that it was the only way to compete. But in 2014, Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson could bear it no longer, and proposed that we abandon this path of abusing the trust of our most loyal customers. It turned out that most of the staff agreed, so we stopped offering discounts, stopped paying dubious companies to knock on doors, stopped using voucher sites, and significantly cut back on leafleting and advertising. Instead we concentrate on growing good veg, looking after our existing customers, and have taken all sales back in-house through our own staff who know our veg and our values.
The response from the majority of our customers has been very positive. It turns out that most people, most of the time, are happy to pay a fair price; what it costs to make something in a competent and efficient manner with due respect for people and the environment, plus a modest profit. This is the basis upon which Riverford was founded 30 years ago. The results wouldn’t satisfy a venture capitalist investor, but we are happy to declare that we don’t offer anything to a new customer that we don’t offer to existing ones. That may sound tame, but in an industry racing to the bottom, it’s a quiet revolution.
Watch our video to find out why our approach is fairer to farmers as well as customers: