Independent fishmongers DO have a future!


The sector is thriving and many retailers have carved a niche position in their locality

Findings in a new market research report from B2B International show that the retail seafood sector consists of a number of thriving independent fishmongers who, despite difficult trading conditions, are in a strong position to capitalise on the trend towards healthier lifestyles.

A Growing Market
The total seafood market (in the year to August 2005) was worth approx £2bn and the independent sector is estimated to be £236m, 12% of the total, rising to a 21% share of the total chilled market.

Recently commissioned research by The Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish) aimed to look at the independent retail seafood market to understand how fishmongers have adapted to the growing competition from the supermarket giants. B2B International carried out interviews with 116 independent fishmongers throughout the UK and also conducted consumer focus groups to help understand the shopper perspective of buying fish. Research was carried out in the third and fourth quarters of 2005.

The future looks optimistic, with 65% of fishmongers interviewed saying that their revenue had increased over the past 5 years and 53% expecting revenue growth to continue over the next 5 years.

The Influence Of The Fishmonger
Successful independents are carving a niche position in the market so as not to go head-to-head on price with the supermarket chains. They see their key position as one of personal service, helping the general public with recipe ideas and advice on how to cook their fish. Other key differentiators include the quality and freshness of the fish, the range of produce offered and their experience and accessibility to the local shopper.

The Consumer Experience
The general public view independent fishmongers as the specialists. They identified with the superior product and knowledge that independent retailers offer and whilst often inconvenient, they liked going to a fishmongers. Supermarkets and fish stalls were perceived by consumers as competing on price whereas shoppers were less likely to be price conscious when shopping in independent fishmongers.

The Future For Fishmongers
With the increasing trend towards healthy eating, the future looks bright for the independent fishmonger. However, the research showed that they could capitalise on their position by further playing to their strengths. They are seen as the experts, offering advice and cooking tips. By offering a one-stop-shop, stocking complementary items like other recipe ingredients, this will provide the general public with the convenience they are looking for. In the hectic world we live in today, this will also provide an added value service of offering quick meal solutions for the busy shopper.

Another recommendation from the research was for fishmongers to make themselves more accessible by flexing their opening hours and offering a delivery service, including online ordering. B2B International director Matthew Harrison comments that “as more and more local shops are forced to close, due to competition from out-of-town supermarkets, fishmongers could further reinforce their position on the high street if they move with the times and implement change.”

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