As the world slowly starts to open, and things seem a little bit more ‘normal’, it is easy to forget the quick decisions and procedures fuel retailers had to urgently put in place at the start of lockdown.
These pandemic strategies were unprecedented but also necessary. Some retailers had detailed plans already set out and others had to make quick decisions there and then.
In this blog series, we speak to fuel retailers about their experiences during this unprecedented time as well as their learnings for the future.
First up, is Roger Perry of Harog LTD, a two station owner based in the North East of England.
We spoke to Roger right in the middle of lockdown, when driving long distances was forbidden for the non key working public and we could only leave our houses for a maximum of one hour a day. Volumes were down on average 60% and retailers were starting to notice a difference in customers' dry stock shopping habits.
To furlough or not to furlough, one of the biggest pandemic business decisions and one that effected almost every type of business globally, from football teams to schools, large corporations to family run businesses and Harog LTD was no exception.
Roger explained that “five members of staff needed to be furloughed due to either their own or their families’ medical conditions. We took on temporary staff, which solved the problem and also helped keep our staff rota flexible.”
If we strike our thoughts back to the start of lockdown, the time where panic buying was in full swing, for retailers including Roger, it was paramount to serve the community and prioritise the vulnerable and those in need.
Roger felt it was “important to keep the sites open as normal to continue to provide a service to our customers who were travelling to work and needed the products their stores supply. Leven Services remains open 24/7. We have to support the local communities, especially in rural areas.”
How has Covid-19 affected finances?
“Although the volumes were hit – falling to a low of 25% however now at 44% compared to the same week last year, the shops are going well and both stations remain profitable.”
To better cope with the crisis, Roger accessed the £25,000 Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF). These are based on the businesses rateable value and paid by your local council. The grants have been widely publicised and Roger’s local council approached him suggesting he may qualify and encouraged him to apply. Kudos to the local councils!
“I don’t know about others, but I had a fantastic experience. Within one week of the grant being available we received the money for both stations.”
Roger said he could have gone through this period without the financial support, but it had definitely helped with the cash flow.
“It will be a case of public confidence, although I suspect things will go back to normal in a while”.
Until then, Roger tries to adapt his business as much as possible to the “new normal”. Now most of his supplier meetings take place over the phone until he will learn how to Zoom!