Paul Hargreaves: A crisis is always an opportunity
I have resisted writing about Covid-19 up until now, but as the situation is now dominating absolutely everything there is no other story in town. Not being a science expert, I am not going to comment on the rights and wrongs of how the UK government is handling the crisis compared to other governments, but there is clearly strategy in place rather than panic measure. It just remains to be seen whether the strategy is a correct one!
For independent retailers though across the land, there are opportunities here and I am amazed that the various trade organisations across the sector haven’t been fighting for their members at this difficult time. Currently though from a few soundings I put out last week, many of our customers have so far had a phenomenal couple of weeks trading, as have the supermarkets. Our sales volumes are similar to the busy pre-Christmas weeks at present, but I know this may not last. We are likely to have simply brought forward Late March or April’s sales earlier – there is a limit on just how much pasta people can eat! But surely there is an opportunity here for the trade organisations to encourage consumers to shop at independent retailers for various reasons. 1) Many still have stock on the shelves and with shorter supply chains from wholesalers like us there are likely to be able to keep stocked, 2) Less close contact with other consumers in check-out queues, for example, makes for a safer shopping experience and 3) Small retailers run by people who care will be likely to be ensuring better hygiene within their stores too.
For the retailers themselves, there is clearly an opportunity to re-enforce their position in the community by working out a way to service those elderly people who are self-isolating. One retailer I talked to yesterday had opened their phone lines to take orders which they were going to deliver to customer’s homes, not a service they normally offer. If you have a database of customers, e-mail or call them to see if they need provisions and then find a way of delivering the goods to them free of charge, ideally. Covid-19 is an opportunity to bring kindness into our businesses and spread that kindness into our communities.
Clearly it’s going to be a difficult few weeks or even months, but stay strong and stay safe and look for opportunities to be kind rather than getting depressed by it all.