Campaigning baker falls to competitive pressures

27 January, 2010

Norman Olley, a well-known baker and one of Rick Stein’s food heroes, has closed his business in Dereham, Norfolk, after falling sales left him with no choice.

The self-proclaimed “campaigning baker” told British Baker he blamed the increasing dominance of the supermarkets, for the falling number of consumers coming to buy bread from his shop. “I’ve been trying to fight the big boys and everything they represent... but now they’ve finally got me,” he said.

The North Elmham bakery, which Olley had run for 34 years, shut its doors on Saturday 16 January, after he had run through his finances the day before and realised he didn’t know where the money was going to come from to pay the bills and his staff their wages. “I thought it best to walk away now, rather than be pushed,” he said.
The business, which employed eight people, comprised a shop in Dereham and a stall at Norwich market. The bakery also supplied between 30 and 40 wholesale clients in the local area, including schools.

Sales had fallen over the past year, explained Olley. “A year ago I was taking around £1,500 a week on the market stall, but this has dropped to £500, and the business had been turning over around £5,000 a week, but this had dropped by around £1,200 a week on average.”

Olley said he’d noticed falling customer numbers over the past five years as people chose to shop at the supermarket for their bread instead. Looking back, he said he probably should have closed about five years ago, “but being a baker you run business from your heart rather than your head”.


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