Tell us how the idea of releasing an own-brand food range began?
For as long as I’ve been in the business, I’ve always wanted to bring back own-brand Fenwick. Own brand was what the business was built on, but that phased out in the ‘80s. When we looked at the brand around a year ago, we started a lot of work refreshing things – our identity and tone of voice – with the aim of highlighting moments of togetherness and being around family. Fenwick is a brand that is part of the community and food is something that brings us all together. In Newcastle we have a thriving food business with the food hall, and food is a core part of Fenwick – we felt that an own-brand food range would highlight that feeling of togetherness.
Is own-brand food something you’ve done before?
We did a food range last year, but this is the first time we’ve had a purpose. Products that speak to our customer and tell them exactly what Fenwick is about. This range has been about a year in the making.
What has been the process of creating the products?
We’ve worked with the buying team to discover the best-selling products, but it’s also important for us to make sure the products tell a story through the visual identity and tone of voice. We’re working with local British suppliers, whose brands we already value and sell, and having them make something exclusive for us under our Fenwick name. Our brand proposition is ‘Brilliantly British’, so we’ve worked with, and going forwards will always work with, British suppliers on our food ranges.
Tell us about the ranges.
There are actually two ranges, we have our core range and a seasonal range. The launch we’ve just released is about 70 percent core range products and 30 percent seasonal. The seasonal products will always be defined by our artist in residence – we always work with an artist, this year it’s Julie Verhoeven – or the seasons; for example, our next seasonal range will probably be inspired by Easter.
Tell us a bit about the products that have been locally-sourced in the North.
I think there’s a little bit of bias as our food buyers are based in Newcastle – they work closely with Northern suppliers, but they do happen to be the best at what they do. We were already working with Ian Wallace, our bee keeper, as we’ve had bees on the roof since 2009 and produced 200 jars of honey in the past, (they always sell out instantly). We knew we had an opportunity with the bees, so we’ve brought honey into the range too. We have our own Fenwick gin, we’re working with Pilgrims Gin based in Alnwick on that – they’re an incredible business. We’ve created our jams with Rosebud, who are based in Yorkshire and, by coincidence, Swaledale. Swaledale is actually where our founder was from, so it’s a lovely alignment to be working with a family-owned preserves company who has all of the same values that we do, it just feels right. We’re working with suppliers who are local to all of our stores, we have suppliers in Kent who are local to our Canterbury store, it’s really very much about keeping it British.
How did you decide on the products to include in your core range?
It’s about telling stories and finding products that, whether you’re a grown-up or a child, you can enjoy. We have marshmallows which you could use on a campfire or in a pudding at home. We certainly wanted to tick off key things like teas and coffees, things that, as humans, we just can’t do without, and are important to a British way of life. There’s so much to build on, but we see some of those core staples as part of our day-to-day life.
Were there any products you considered but didn’t make the final cut?
I wanted to do a really amazing gourmet advent calendar and Christmas crackers, but there are things like sell by dates you have to consider. I’d love to do a fruit cake, but there’s still time to build on what we already have.
What are you predicting will be your best seller?
I’ve had a tip-off from the buying team that our own label gin will be huge for us. I think in terms of food, our chocolate will be a very big seller, we have these long bars which are great for gifting, as well as beautiful tins of flaked drinking chocolate. You can have it as hot chocolate or sprinkled over your desserts.
Was Christmas always the time of year you planned to launch the range?
Christmas is when Fenwick really comes into its own, and our food range really builds on that. In terms of the story behind our own-brand food too, there’s no time when being together is more important than at Christmas.
Is there anything you’re thinking about producing in the future?
We’re opening wine stores, which are going to be called The Wine Room. Part of the strategy is to sell British wines, so, for me, an obvious one for the range would be a British sparkling wine. It’s something that hasn’t been explored properly yet.