“Reports say organic sales are down 4%, 10% the previous year. You know what? I don’t really care. I don’t listen the big news.”
That was Renée Elliott, founder of Planet Organic. Her message to delegates at yesterday’s Organic Farmers & Growers ‘Selling Organic’ conference: “Unless it galvanises you, just ignore the big news. Sell your great organic products well and you’ll do well.”
And it’s an approach that has clearly been serving Planet Organic well — sales at Planet are up 12%, the new Devonshire Square store is “trading to expectation” and a site is being actively sought for store number six.
Elliot used her Keynote talk to emphasise the vital importance of relationship building — with suppliers, customers and store team — something, she says, that has to be founded on “honesty and integrity”.
Building strong relationships with suppliers has been important for Planet Organic from day one, particularly in the early years when supportive and sympathetic suppliers helped keep then business afloat. “God bless ‘em, they really helped us out. We’d been completely honest with them and they wanted us to succeed. But as we grew, they grew too. That’s the win-win.”
Building relationships with customers “involves telling them what we do and constantly informing them”. So, there is lots of in-store messaging and signposting, along with a genuinely engaging website.
Talking to team
Last but not least, said Elliott, was building relationships with the store team. The key here again is communicating well. “We want our team to feel valued and our goal is to be a great place to work.” To this end Planet Organic has created a whole range of communication opportunities — from a comprehensive training programme to in-house newsletter (Planet People); breakfast meetings and farm visits (“this makes organic really come alive”).
“The reason we put so much effort into this? It’s because our team are our expression of who we are, the face of Planet Organic, on the shop floor,” says Elliott.