Speciality food industry facing another challenging year
Speciality food bosses have urged fellow retailers to stay positive and keep a focus on customer service as the sector enters a challenging new year.
With Brexit set to be finalised on New Year’s Eve, and restrictions due to the pandemic still likely to be in force, 2021 will be greeted with apprehension by many.
But several retailers told FFD that businesses in the sector could survive the turbulent period – as long as they stayed positive, patient and prepared.
Antonio Picciuto, owner of Hertfordshire’s Buongiorno Italia, called for a clear focus on the sector’s strengths next year. “We should all concentrate on doing what we do best: good food, good value and amazing service in a clean fully-stocked store,” he said.
Picciuto, pictured right, added that it was critical to avoid giving customers the impression a store was struggling.
“Posters in the window saying, ‘Please support us’ or ‘Shop local’ give vibes of desperation,” he warned.
Rob Copley, co-owner of Farmer Copleys and chairman of the Farm Retail Association, said the first quarter of 2021 was a good time for businesses to reflect and improve.
“Look at what you did well this year and what you’re going stop, start and continue,” he said. “Look at your fixed and variable costs, your marketing and buying strategies. Analyse your business.”
Copley said looking after staff and suppliers would be even more important than usual at the start of next year.
“It’s a good time to sit down with the individuals and ask how they are. Can we do some customer service training? Can we improve customer service behind the mask?
“We can expect Brexit to cause problems with product supply – we need to hug our suppliers. We can sit them down and ask how they are and how we can help each other.”
Jennie Allen, founder of Bayley & Sage, which has stores across south west London, said independent food retailers should take heart from surviving 2020.
“COVID has given us a lot more confidence in dealing with supply issues,” she said.
“We’ve found British alternatives. We’ve shrunk our product range. We know what we can cope with.”
James Rutter, managing director at Paxton & Whitfield, agreed.
“This has been a year of change and we have learned to be pragmatic,” he said. “It is important that we remain pragmatic into 2021 and ready to react to situations as and when it’s necessary.”