The move is interesting on a number of counts. Bond clearly believes that online food retailing has a big future and that Farmison can sort out the problems that stop many from buying fresh food online such as variable quality, and irritating substitutions. He must also believe, despite harsh economic times that super premium food, with a provenance that traces back to the individual farmer has a future too. And he must believe that Farmison has something unique about its offer which will ensure it succeeds in an increasingly crowded market.
Farmison faces competition from other online retailers, and from grocery stores making increasing efforts to go super premium. Marc Bolland wants to take Marks and Spencer in this direction, Waitrose and Ocado makes strenuous efforts to be special, and all three are investing online, along side every other food retailer. There is also competition from the likes of Riverford Organics and Abel and Cole companies who sell local food from small farms.
Will Farmison be a good financial investment not just for Andy Bond, but for the small farmers who are paying for the privilege of being sold through it? Difficult to say at this early stage, but the business will face challenges. Ocado, after 10 years still has not made a profit, its sales are slowing, and investors are so spooked they have written the share price down to about half of its launch price. Although the supermarkets are happy to talk about growth rates in their online business, no one ever mentions profitability which probably means it is low. On the other hand, Andy Bond has a good track record and will have investigated Farmison’s potential in detail before parting with his money.