Wholesalers adapting to coronavirus conditions

Businesses across the wholesale sector are rallying round to keep the nation fed as further restrictions caused by the Covid-19 outbreak come into force.

While retailers are struggling to deal with increased demand for core products, foodservice operators are left with empty establishments, creating two diverse challenges for wholesalers to keep their businesses flowing.

The biggest adaptation is with foodservice wholesalers, with many changing tack to open their doors to public orders, with a series of delivery and collection services popping up from depots across the country, whereas others are in the process of setting up consumer-facing, online-ordering apps. 

One business that’s been proactive to open its depot to the public is Savona Foodservice, which is offering click and collect services from its sites in Oxford and Ilfracombe to support people in their areas.

“With government news breaking as the week continues, the response from our local communities has inspired us to do more,” said Savona’s Group Digital Manager, Jenny Squire.

“Since we posted on social media that we’d opened our doors to the public in order to support the community through this difficult and unpredictable time.

“Following an incredible response in terms of engagement and people calling to place orders, we’ve extended this further by allowing anyone to place orders on our online platform, whereas it was just for trade accounts previously. We’ve been inundated with requests for online accounts since then.”

Bidfood is another great example of a wholesaler adapting to the current climate and has an established partner, Catering2You, in place to offer a next-day service for core products deliver to consumers’ doors.

Buying groups, such as Unitas, are also pooling their resources to help their members deal with demand issues. Unitas is setting up its own marketplace to keep the supply chain moving, with foodservice-serving businesses on hand to keep their retail counterparts going.

For independent Spanish wholesaler, Mevalco, there are different challenges to face up to. With travel bans and issues across Europe – as well as an almighty squeeze on some of their customers – they need to balance out priorities.

“In our own case, we have the additional complexity of importing from Spain where many businesses are on lock down and borders may be closed,” said Mevalco Chairman Justin Slawson.

“As a result, we have taken swift measures to take out any non-essential cost within the business while supporting our own customers as they look to whether what could well be a long-term challenge in trading that has devastating consequences.”

While wholesalers appear to be adapting quickly to attract new customers, others are taking actions to ensure the safety of their current ones.

JJ Foodservice, for example, has encouraged their customers to order and pay online and reduce handling of cash, even if it’s putting extra pressure on fulfilling orders.

“Customer numbers more than doubled over the [last] weekend as supermarket supplies ran dry sending many shoppers our way,” said JJ Head of Operations, Sedat Kaan Hendekli.

“We’re doing everything we can to fulfil orders while promoting the safety of our teams. Ordering and paying online reduces the need to wait around – you can be in and out of a branch much faster, helping to minimise risk.”

Bidfood coronavirus covid-19 Foodservice JJ Foodservice Mevalco online ordering Savona Foodservice Unitas wholesaler