As we all come to terms with the enormity of the coronavirus outbreak around the world, The Buyer is looking to play its part by sharing practical information about what the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors are being asked to do, along with individual stories of what businesses are doing to support each other through what are going to be come increasingly difficult times. Here’s our update on the latest situation and what steps businesses are taking now and could do in the future.
Help us support the trade by sharing ideas and steps we can take to support each other at email@example.com and @Buyer11 on social media channels.
The coronavirus situation is changing on a daily, if not hourly basis. Overnight we have seen lockdowns spread across Spain, France, Ireland and to major cities in the United States, including Los Angeles and New York, with official calls for all bars, restaurants and public places to close.
In the UK the hospitality, restaurant and retail sectors are readying themselves for similar actions by stepping up measures that will allow them to continue to serve their customers. To do so will need the full support of the drinks supply chain to ensure there is the right level of products going up and down the market at any one time.
Clearly easier said than done and we are all going to face uncertainty and difficulties we have not experienced before or have any rule book to overcome.
But where the combined drinks, retail and hospitality sectors can really come together as one community is sharing ideas, and steps that companies are taking, up and down that supply chain to support each other.
We really are all in this together and every part of our supply chain from producers, logistics, importers, merchants, stores, bars, restaurants and pubs are all going to rely on each other for every bit of help they can get.
Inspire and inform
It’s why we can take inspiration from what one of your peers is doing. So please if you are looking to take individual steps that you would like to share, or see great ideas being implemented by others in the trade then let’s tell each other about them. If you tag @TheBuyer11 into any posts you send out on social media we can then help the wider industry by re-sharing to our online communities.
There will also be steps being taken in other sectors that we can all learn from and look to adapt for our own businesses.
Within The Buyer team we have not had to look far to find inspiration. Our editor-at-large, Roger Jones and owner of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn with his wife Sue have taken it upon themselves to start cooking and provide ready meals that they can send out to people in their local community who are self isolating – for free.
Roger, Sue and their team will be making meals, packing them up and freezing them so that they can provide local people who good quality food even if they are not able to get out.
As Roger explains: “We need to be positive and to help where we possibly can. We are now in unknown territory and it’s time to bring everyone together. It’s also all our responsibilities to make a real difference and help the industry, and the people in it, we love – and bring some happiness and a light at the end of the tunnel. We will get over this but so many need our help.”
Reassurance and safety
One of the key steps any retail or hospitality business can take is to reassure their customers that there will be enough food, drink and essential supplies to go around for everyone. We have seen how our supermarkets have been swamped by customers panic buying certain items.
The response this week by the major grocery chains has crucially been around re-assuring those who are understandably anxious.
A combined letter from the Big Four supermarket chains, Aldi, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, The Co-op, Ocaco and Costcutter urges everyone to work together for the greater good. It says: “We need your help too. We would ask everyone to be considerate in the way they shop. We understand your concerns but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left out. There is enough for everyone if we all work together.”
Sainsbury’s chief executive, Mike Coupe, sent his own re-assuring personal message to customers stating: “We have more food and other essential items coming to us from manufacturers. If we shop just for food we and our families need, there will be enough.”
We can expect to see similar messages of support and reassurance being sent out by our drinks retailers and restaurant groups in the coming days as the focus switches very much towards getting on top of the situation as best businesses can by letting their customers know how they can still buy from them.
If you are looking to do something then starting with informing your customers, both in the trade and your consumers, about what you are doing with your suppliers and your supply chain to keep things moving as normal so that they can be re-assured, as best they can, that you are putting steps in place to keep ahead of the situation.
And that you can carry on doing business through whatever channels you can, be it still physically coming to your business, or using click and collect or home delivery.
Chesters Wine has even come up with a novel “Knock and Run!” where you are guaranteed no contact and the chance to “relive our rebellious teens”. It is also, along with a number of other merchants and restaurants, explaining the hygiene steps it is taking to keep its stores and restaurants safe.
Deliveroo has also launched a ‘no-contact drop-off’ service to help consumers concerned about having food delivered at home.
It’s going to be a key time to be pro-active, get on the front foot and it’s an approach we will see other merchants, retailers, and restaurants taking in the days to come as they follow the lead of the major grocers.
We are also seeing reassurance messages coming out of airlines, banks, finance companies and other service providers to counter the heightened levels of anxiety being driven through the media and social channels.
For the moment it appears shipping routes and logistics are being maintained and there has not been an initial shortage of wine in the supply chain, even from those countries in lockdown, like Italy.
But it is early days and a bigger picture will, no doubt, emerge in the coming weeks if there are issues in actually getting wine packed and sent from wineries by road to ports.
Robin Copestick, managing director of Freixenet Copestick, the UK’s biggest importer of sparkling wine, told The Buyer: “It’s a bit too early to say if there are any significant impacts on supply chain although we are expecting some problems and working hard to mitigate these. Our advice to customers is to order as much as they can now. We are monitoring the situation very regularly.”
Daniel Lambert of Daniel Lambert Wines said he is being advised by his shipping partners to “double lead times”. Currently he has had no issues, but “we always have high stocks”. “Italy we got in before shutdown so hopefully we will miss that altogether.”
But he added: “I think that this will serve as a big wake up call to everyone. Supply chains are really fragile and for decades both importers and consumers have taken them for granted.”
Andrew Johnson at Woodwinters is also in a “wait and see” mode: “Things are fine at the moment and wine is moving, even from Northern Italy. We fear, though, this won’t last.”
Again The Buyer is interested in sharing any information direct from producers and logistics businesses about what is happening with individual supply issues around the world.
At the front end
This is where the picture is changing daily with more blanket bans on restaurant and bar openings expected around the world. To give an indication of how fast things are moving Andrea Johnston, chief operating officer of OpenTable, the restaurant reservation system, released this data for the last week’s bookings around the world:
- The US and United Kingdom are 20% down vs. last year for the past seven days.
- But the US, UK and Canada declined by around 30% on March 12 alone.
- Bookings are down 25% in London.
Mark Brumby of on-trade analysts Langton Capital, said today on his daily newsletter that:
- Community pubs were 7% down in footfall last week and Saturday, with no football, was down up to 18%.
- London and the major cities are worse – at around 30% plus with travel also down “perhaps 35% to 45% and trending lower”.
- Suburban managed bars are “down 25%” with suburban pubs down by a lesser amount. Some university areas have been weak.
- Forward bookings are down 30% or more. Mothers’ Day cancellations are exceeding bookings.
- Casual dining sites are down by perhaps 20% overall. Travel sites and city centres are the worst areas. “There was a sequential worsening last week with Saturday perhaps down 35% in some cases. Down by 50% plus in travel sites. The latter could go to almost 100% down this week.”
Calls for action
There are also increasing calls from the industry for the government to also get on the front foot and take reassuring steps of its own that will help businesses get through the increasingly difficult weeks ahead. Particularly around delaying VAT and duty payments to HMRC and other measures that will help the short and medium term cash flow through the supply chain.
The BBC’s business editor Simon Jack tweeted this weekend: “Many businesses I’ve spoken to have no intention of paying HMRC or their landlords for foreseeable future. But most committed to paying suppliers and staff.”
To which restaurateur Jonathan Downey replied: “Yep. It’s the only way. That may change of course when landlords take steps to forfeit leases and change the locks. We need a three month #ForfeitureMoratorium. We need a three month #ForfeitureMoratorium.”
UK Hospitality’s Kate Nichols has “implored” the UK government today to take more action “including an instruction to local authorities to not collect business rates payments; encourage landlords to cancel Q2 payments and support measures for the UK Government to cover costs for temporary employment respites.”
It will be interesting to see which countries, if any, take Denmark’s lead where the government is paying 75% of wages for three months. France has alloactaed €100bn on business and Norway €9bn.
What businesses are doing
Spend any time on social media and you will come across great examples of what businesses are doing to help generate trade and help their customers at the same time.
Hide restaurant in London, or example, is reducing the prices of its wines for as long as it is allowed to stay open. All its wines will be priced at the equivalent retail price Hedonism plus £10. Which means some of its wines, it claims, are “average 50% less than most restaurants in Mayfair”.
Then there are the measures major businesses are doing to help their suppliers. Morrisons is driving the agenda in the grocery sector by saying it is making immediate payments to its small suppliers (and reclassifying 1,000 firms so they benefit) to help them deal with cash flow issues caused by coronavirus.
Carluccio’s has written to landlords requesting a three month moratorium on rental payments.
The Buyer would like to share similar examples in the coming weeks either through @TheBuyer11 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Useful contacts – Industry support
There are a number of official sites and trade bodies that will be providing information over the coming days and weeks. Here are a selection but we are happy to add more if anyone would like to contact us at email@example.com.
UK Hospitality: it will be sending out regular advice to its members, but also to the trade in general, including sharing the latest relevant official guidelines from the government pertinent to the drinks industry. It has produced specific health and safety information to help those in the hospitality industry here
This includes advice on what the government is currently prepared to do to support businesses affected by the coronavirus including VAT and payments to staff:
- Government advice for employers and businesses >
- Government advice for non clinical and public settings >
- Government Action Plan >
Other useful newsletters:
- Mark Bumby, Langton Capital, daily newsletter. Sign up here.
- Propel Newsletter for daily on-trade news and updates.
- Follow @WineMerchantMag for what independent wine merchants are doing to support each other and their customers.
- StarWineList for information on restaurants around the world and how they are coping.