Low-profile Farmfoods has come up trumps in the face of economic adversity. But what is the secret of its success during a period that has proved challenging for many retailers?

Who?

The frozen food specialist is one of the lowest profile multiple retailers of size in the UK. Farmfoods was founded in 1955 in Scotland and is controlled by Eric Herd, son of its founders. It now has more than 300 stores around the UK.

Why are we talking about Farmfoods now?

The company had a stellar year in 2010. Documents released by Companies House last week showed sales rose by 19% to £558m and pre-tax profits climbed nearly 30% to £17.7m.

What do we know about them?

According to Kantar, Farmfoods has 0.6% of the grocery market. Founded in Scotland, the retailer’s powerbase remains heavily skewed towards the north of the UK – it has 22 stores in Glasgow alone and has developed a strong presence in the North of England and the Midlands. It has also been spreading south and now has six stores in London. The company is acquisitive and looking for more deals; to this end, it has a list of several hundred locations where it requires units of between 6,000 sq ft and 8,000 sq ft.

What’s the offer?

Farmfoods has a strong focus on price and value, which means it has been well placed to do well during the recession. According to Retail Week Knowledge Bank, about 80% of the assortment in its no-frills stores is frozen, with the remainder being dry goods. There is a strong focus on private-label product.

How’s it done so well?

The food retail market is highly competitive, with the major supermarkets all expanding rapidly. However, Farmfoods’ focus on frozen food and value has helped it to do well. “It’s done well against all the odds,” says Retail Week Knowledge Bank senior analyst Wendy Massey. “It’s got a really loyal following in the regions where it’s strong, and will have done well out of the recession from people looking for value by doing a big freezer shop.”

What’s its competition?

The market leader among the frozen food specialists is Iceland, with a 1.9% share according to Kantar. Other specialists in the field include Heron Frozen Foods, which operates from 160 stores in the North and Midlands, and grew rapidly with the acquisition of several tranches of former Woolworths stores. 3i-backed Frozen Value, which trades as Jack Fulton, is another Northern-based specialist, with 67 stores in and around Yorkshire, where it is headquartered.