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I always think that the best retail experiences are created primarily through great visual merchandising. In the retail industry, there are many fashion and home stores that really can deliver that wow factor from the first window right through the store. The shop that immediately comes to mind as the best example of this is Anthropologie.

But in food, there is less style and it is very hard to maintain a sense of interest throughout the shop. Many would say that Eataly is the answer in food, but for me they capture it in places and not in others. It can be cold, in some of the Italian versions and cluttered in NYC. Yes, it is a great start but not one that can’t be bettered.

Biscuit displays the Rosendals Tradgard way

Biscuit displays the Rosendals Tradgard way

Food is simple with added touches for a unique look and feel

Food is simple with added touches for a unique look and feel

The place that did it for me was Rosendals Tradgard in Stockholm. This botanical garden had a unique style and elegance that translated into their small shop encapsulating the brand perfectly. Clever use of unusual items were there to display goods, food was kept simple yet different and the overall effect was one that had me going back and back. It really did gel the brand values with the customer experience. One to visit, for sure.

Now I am trying to create a food store that does the same for the company I am working for. No pressure! I can be as critical as I like but now I have to put my money where my mouth is and do it for real. So this week I ventured to a trade show that would fill in the visual merchandising gaps that were left from the food fair last week. Top Drawer is one of the best shows for me to find what I am looking for. It has a standard of trader that is at the right level and if you open your imagination, then all sorts of things are up for grabs.

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Nkuku is a great place to start. It is an eco friendly, fairtrade gift and home supplier sourcing primarily from Africa and India, although they tell me they are expanding into Morocco and the Far East more this year. I was drawn to it, not just because it is my natural taste, but also because it is organic, honest and simple, reflecting a lot of the brand values that exist on the farm. It will be essential to cherry pick, there is no doubt, and sometimes surprise, but I could really begin to piece things together standing there on that stand.

I bet your first thought was not perfect box for displaying biltong when you saw this?!

I bet your first thought was not perfect box for displaying biltong when you saw this?!

Hop-Peck-1Hop & Peck is a company I earmarked way back last Spring and it was lovely to be reminded again how great these guys are. Their hand made British homewares match traditional Oak with fun modern designs to being something just a little bit different to the home market. I can see us cross merchandising these into our different sections to add interest and novelty. It was great to see them win the Top Drawer best new gift product award at the show as well. Much deserved.

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I always thought I had an eye for the expensive, but apparently it is the award winners too as I had spotted the best new wellbeing product too, even thought I was only passing through the wellbeing section. Rewined Candles are American soy candles made in Charleston from recycled wine bottles. The fragrances nod to the notes of the individual wines. They really are something new and now available in the UK.

Lots of hares which had clearly been jugged!

Lots of hares which had clearly been jugged!

After all that VM speculation it was great to meet friends later on to pursue our quest to find a great Sunday lunch. We are working our way through a list of so called great places which normally underwhelm but our hopes were high when we arrived at the Jugged Hare. With my creative hat on, it was great to see somewhere embrace their theme without it appearing like DisneyWorld. Maybe it was the harsh reality of all those animal and bird heads on display, but we all agreed that we liked what they had done with the place.

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The food got off to a good start too as we shared kedgeree croquettes, breaded skate knobs with a fabulous tartar sauce and the very in season grouse legs which smelled (and tasted) of horse manure! Lovely. But sadly our journey continues as the mains didn’t come up to scratch. The meat was lovely, but veg woefully under-done. Shame. The lovely lady serving was a fine example of how to handle our disgruntled bunch but after so much promise I can’t see us rushing back.

So I leave you with a few birds that hopefully didn’t lose their lives in vain – displayed on the way to the loo. Let’s hope their dishes were more rewarding to whoever ate them.

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