The family business’s ecommerce retail move, under The Cornish Fishmonger brand, has been “life saving”, says company founder and managing director Robert Clifford-Wing, a former chef and trawlerman. Over 30 years the business has become renowned for freshness and quality, primarily supplying Michelin-starred restaurants and hotels across southern England and London.
“We’re a one-stop shop, buying directly from fishermen, then filleting, preparing, packing and delivering to doorsteps, from the boat to the customer in 24 hours,” Wing explains.
When trade calls dried up overnight after lockdown, Wing knew it was a now-or-never moment to bring the public fully on board “so they could enjoy the same quality as those dining in a top restaurant. The produce is so fresh it can go straight into the freezer and be enjoyed at leisure for a month.”
But he also recognised that despite having a retail site, ecommerce was still uncharted waters and digital marketing expertise was needed if they were to make the most of the changing times.
Wing found the answer through digital recruitment agency Beringer Tame and Harriet Wills who is Wing’s new ecommerce head.
“Ecommerce brings the ancient trade of fishmongering into the 21st century. But even when it is about technology, finding the right person so they fit into a business’s culture is vital. The personal service we got from the agency made all the difference,” says Wing.
A new Cornish Fishmonger super customer-friendly website with mouth-watering photos launches in the New Year, aligned to work seamlessly with mobiles and Google Shopping.
At present consumer and wholesale sales are evenly split, with consumer orders up 400 percent compared to 2019, representing years of previous growth in just a few months, and retail could net a £5 million turnover by 2022.
Staff numbers have increased from 34 to 41 with more jobs planned and the company has invested in upgrading and doubling its production space which will enable it to expand its menu of ready meals.
Recent figures suggest Brits are spending 21 more hours a week cooking with scratch cooks on the rise. Many of Wing’s new customers are younger and come back for more helpings.
Beringer Tame has seen digital talent searches double compared to a year ago with junior roles more in demand than senior. However chief executive Patrick Tame predicts this will change come Easter as companies capitalise on the digital improvements they are making at the moment.
Ecommerce has enabled Wing to reach a nationwide audience, hungry for all the tasty extras and traceability today’s foodies expect as a matter of course.
Along with its most popular boxes with seafood medleys, The Cornish Fishmonger creates its own products, from award-winning smoked seafood ranges to cooked lobster and dressed crab, and there are ‘how to’ guides on preparation, recipe ideas, wine and seafood pairings and customer recommendations.
Christmas is not all about turkey either. “There is big demand for Cornish lobster, crab, oysters and smoked salmon at this time of year,” says Wing.
The company’s long-standing ethical sourcing policy – the 30 sustainably sourced species it offers are one the biggest choices to be found online, and the close ties to the county’s fishing industry have stood it in good stead as customers’ concerns deepen about the marine environment and the health of fish stocks.
Wing is now a harbour commissioner for Newlyn fishing port where he is working to install better facilities for fishermen and modernise practices by increasing sustainable fisheries.
“Growing up here I understand the pressures on our Cornish fishing community facing the fierce competition from overseas fleets,” he says. “We all need to support their traditional fishing methods or lose them.”