Posted: 23/04/2020

Guild research reveals COVID-19 business trends

While many independent food retailers are doing brisk business despite the coronavirus crisis, many producers have seen a sharp drop in sales since lockdown began, according to new research by the Guild of Fine Food.

After surveying more than 200 fine food businesses, including 47 shop owners, the Guild found that just over half of these retailers (53%) saw a year-on-year increase of at least 10% in sales during March. Two in three shops reported new customers shopping with them.

On the supply chain side, nearly half of all producers who responded – 176 in total – said they had endured loss of at least 26% in turnover during the same period.

The survey – investigating the effect of coronavirus on the independent food businesses – also revealed that fine food businesses are positive about the future, with 95% of respondents reporting that they believe their business will survive the COVID-19 outbreak.

Additionally, nearly two thirds of all businesses have not or do not intend to make any staff redundant. However, 35% of the producers surveyed and 62% of retailers have or intend to furlough employees, the data revealed.

John Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food, said: “The key metric for me is that two in three retailers are seeing an increase in new customers. 

“It’s widely reported that independent food shops are seeing healthy levels of trade from new shoppers. What we all need to work on in the next couple of months is how to keep them.”

The research also highlighted that companies in the sector have found it difficult to access government assistance to combat the economic effects of the virus, announced in March. 

The £330bn loan pledge promised was rated as “not at all useful” for 62% of businesses responding. 

Meanwhile, only around one in ten (87%) have applied for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) via their bank and 80% have not claimed on business interruption insurance. 

As highlighted above, fine food producers have been disproportionately hit by the crisis as foodservice has all but halted. Of the producers surveyed, 63% have reported that wholesalers have stopped ordering from them, while 54% have had their incoming supply lines affected. 

In an attempt to plug the gap in sales, just over a quarter (26%) have implemented delivery services for the first time.

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