A year ago, while planning for the retirement of one of the company’s founders and studiously preparing for Brexit the new Executive Board had no idea that all these plans would be superseded by a global pandemic. However, after a demanding and stressful year, the lessons learned in the past twelve months have given the business a renewed strength and purpose.
The initial impact of Covid-19, or more accurately, the restrictions put in place by the UK Government to help control its spread, came as a shock to all businesses, and while hospitality and tourism were immediately identified as the first major casualties of closure, its suppliers also shared the immediate blow.
‘Orders from our catering butcher customers who supply hotels, restaurants, tourism and events disappeared overnight’, recalls George Holliday, Sales Director. ‘Demand for prepared meat and poultry dropped like a stone and when dealing with fresh produce, you cannot shelve your product for the future’.
The Directors met quickly and acted decisively. Whilst some staff were placed on the furlough scheme introduced by the Government, arrangements were made for the transfer and accommodation of willing and skilled warehousing and logistics staff to our Banbury site.
The new streamlined approach to our business satisfied the increasing demand on our wholesale supply from retail customers as the public relied more and more on high street butchers, who were maintaining a level of trade usually only seen over the Christmas period.
‘We were getting daily enquiries from butchers who had been referred to us from our existing customers’, said George, who was now leading the business’ sales function from home. ‘We were working flat out to welcome as many new people as we could, but obviously it could not compensate for the loss from our catering customers’.
After six months, we took another in-depth analysis of the our situation and, despite reports of drastic cuts in workforces across the country, we were able to maintain job security for over 80% of our staff.
‘We scrutinised every inch of every department in order to protect and support as many of our people as possible,’ explains Chief Executive, Gary Smith. ‘We were sad when we had to make a small amount of redundancies, but when I spoke to colleagues and read what other companies were going through, I think we can take pride in the success of our efforts for the vast majority’.
The detailed analysis of all areas in the new commercial climate enabled us to see the business in a whole new light. ‘We had discussed it in the past, but it was clear that our central location in Banbury was much more accessible for meeting new and existing demand’, says Max Prudon, Operations Director. ‘As our customer base expanded from predominantly the Southern Counties and Coast, to the entire length and breadth of the UK, we found ourselves hiring to grow our workforce in Banbury’.
Now at the start of 2021, we have relaunched our business with separate production and wholesale brands to allow the latter to return to the our roots and focus on maintaining our position as a leading multi-species supplier of meat and poultry.
‘We are taking advantage of a quieter period as the industry adjusts to Brexit measures by investing in our Banbury depot’, says Max. ‘We have installed upgrades to our existing freezer and undertaken further investment into expanding refrigeration capacity’.
And the benefits are already being seen. ‘Since the start of the year, we have been opening between 8 and 10 new accounts a week’, says George, ‘and we have innovative plans to support our retail customers in the months ahead’.
‘I think it is proof of our ‘can do’ attitude which was previously recognised in National Supplier Awards,’ concludes Gary. ‘What started as a practical response has led to a robust business strategy that is maintaining our position in the marketplace. We thought that changes in leadership and structure 12 months ago might mean we had something to prove to the industry, and I think we have certainly done that.’