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Rain ‘devastates’ trade
5:00pm Thursday 13th September 2012 in News
A Halton East ice cream company has appeared on BBC One’s Countryfile to discuss the devastating impact of the wet British summer on the rural economy.
Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream, which is run by Gary and Mandy Rogers, of Calm Slate Farm, featured in Sunday’s programme, which looked at how farming and seasonal businesses had been hit by the wet weather and the cancellation of rural shows.
“It’s been a catastrophic year, worse than anybody’s known,” Gary told Countryfile. “We’re 50 per cent down on last year and last year was worse than the one before.”
He estimates that he has lost £800,000 this year.
Mandy said that cancellation or postponement of the agricultural shows had hit their business the hardest.
“We send our ice cream vans to cover about 200 events across the country and 40 of those were postponed or cancelled, including the Great Yorkshire Show,” she said. “We send out our vans in May-June time and we pretty much don’t see them for more than a month at a time. But this year we’ve had many of them sitting in our yard not making any money.”
And a reduction in visitor numbers in the Dales has also had an impact on ice cream sales.
“We usually have a van selling ice cream in Burnsall Field nearly every day throughout the summer, but this year a van has been there only four times,” she said. “People just haven’t been visiting.
“We have a short window to make money selling ice cream. We had a nice spell in March and last weekend the weather was nice, but you can’t make a living in one weekend.”
Even supermarkets, tourist centres and shops in popular visitor areas have only bought around half of the ice cream tubs they usually do.
However, Gary and Mandy remain upbeat, buoyed up by the success of their ice cream parlour, which they opened at their Halton East farm in June 2011.
Gary said: “There is no denying that this summer has been awful for rural businesses, the constant rain has saturated the ground and made farming very difficult. Despite this, the company is experiencing a period of growth, thanks to our high quality products, strong brand and the success of the new ice cream parlour.”
While filming, Countryfile presenter Tom Heap tried his hand at selling ice cream from one of the company’s cream and brown vans, saw the traditional ice cream manufactured and explored the company’s 1950s-style American diner, named Billy-Bob’s.
“We haven’t advertised it, but news of it has spread by word of mouth and we’ve been steadily busy,” said Mandy.
The diner and ice cream parlour seats about 70 to 80 people and has an outdoor play area for under nines.
But Mandy said they were starting the planning process to expand the diner’s seating by 100 and create an indoor play area.
“On a sunny day the children can play out now, but this new plan would be our safety net against the wet British summer.”