Bombarded as we all are with an avalanche of negative stories in the press, we’ve been hugely encouraged to hear so many positive ways retailers are weathering the storm and finding new ways of trading.
This series started out with the intention of collecting a sort of diary of positive stories from our customers. What it’s become is simply real stories from real businesses.
It offers perspective – the good, bad and the ugly at a time when we could all do with a bit of that. So here are real words and real stories from the high street. If you need a pick me up, check back often, because we’ll keep updating as and when they come in.
If you have an inspiring story of your own to tell from the high street or any advice for your fellow traders – send it our way or hashtag #retailstories and we’ll spread the word.
Bags For Life
Do you know a frontline worker who deserves a FREE NHS SUPERHERO TOTE?
COVID-19 has changed the way we think about the environment, what we value and who we’re thankful for. Everyone has a story to tell. Whether it is streets full of windows decorated with rainbows, random acts of kindness or Thursday night clapping for the NHS. These stories remind us that we are all in it together. One of our favourites is the large scale wall art under the arch by Waterloo East by street artist and now friend Lionel Stanhop. It is dedicated to the people who are helping us through this the most, our NHS staff.
To help spread the love a little more our sister company WBC Bags for Life has collaborated with Lionel and made some NHS Superhero tote bags!
These bags are made from 100% recycled canvas so you’ll be showing love to the planet too, as well as the NHS. So the question is…
Do you know a NHS Superhero? We have a limited run of bags to give away, all they ask is that you visit them on Instagram here
1. Tag your superhero, so we (and they) know why they’re being sent a free bag
2. Click the link in the bio and enter their name/address in the message field of the contact form
3. The Bags for life team will send them a free bag and a little bit of love! 👏🏻.
Seasons of England
Established in 1982, Seasons of England already offer free delivery to residents in the local area. All you have to do “ask us for details in the shop as we know this service is really useful to many of you out there running busy lives.”
We asked this fruit and veg shop what’s changed since the Covid outbreak and what are they doing to keep business running smoothly.
I feel bad about being positive about this, but I can’t go back to the way it was before. We live next to a busy station. We used to to stay open for people coming off the trains from work. I was leaving my house at 4am and working until 7 ‘o’clock every day. Now I finish at 3pm. I have a life. I have an evening!
People are learning how to shop individually. People having to shop locally has done wonders for our business. There are people who have lived here for ages, but never stepped foot in here.
After this is over, we want the shop designed properly. I can’t fit anymore in!
When this is over, come see us, and we’ll lay out your shop floor and reconfigure how to make your space work for the new way of shopping .
Valentina Fine Foods
Like so many restaurants unsure of when they’ll be able to open again, Bruno of Valentina Fine Food has converted all his restaurants to retail. He felt that social distancing rules were here to stay for the bulk of the rest of the year at least. So it needed a bit of long term thinking.
He says “ that would make small restaurants unable to comply, and people would not be comfortable going out for a while. Entertaining at home in small groups is only going to grow.”
Bruno expects to re-open his restaurant’s in early 2021 unless things change. But till then, he’s using WBC’s fixtures and fittings, particular the BRIX modular display system to become grocery stores. Partnering up with Natoora to offer quality of fruits and vegetables, they’ve even put together a “Valentina Essential Kit” delivered to homes within 2-mile radius of their Weybridge branch. The best bit is the whole kit only costs £30. Just look what you get in it!
🥚 6 Eggs
🍝 Pasta 500gr.
🍅 Vine Tomatoes
🥫 Tomato tin
🇮🇹 Sicilian Pastry selection
Contact Valentina Fine Foods on 01932 218062 or email us email@example.com to order your kit.
The Dessert Deli
Laura Amos, owner of The Dessert Deli is no stranger to facing change head-on. If there’s anyone who with their ear to the ground, the pulse of the nation and a sixth sense for the needs of her customers, it’s Laura. She started off her career winning student of the year and a scholarship to train under Michelin starred chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli. Then she was sous pastry chef at The Ivy then Head Pastry Chef at Le Caprice.
We still remember how she single-handedly contracted herself to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make thousands and thousands of cupcakes for the London Olympics in 2012. Remember that Laura? Fun, never to be repeated! And since the Covid crisis, the Dessert Deli is living up to more than just its name by making Sunday lunches and selling them online. She has this to say about that…
New record today of 41 Sunday roasts and 45 baked cheesecakes and a few trays of brownies.
Thank you all SO much for your support and orders.
I feel so lucky that I am serving probably the same amount of Sunday roasts as a small pub probably does. Let alone as a business which specialises in cakes and desserts. The past couple of weeks I have felt a bit overwhelmed, to be honest.
Having to adapt, not knowing what is going to happen from day to day. I am throwing myself into work and trying to keep myself busy. I have had to change my business whilst people aren’t able to have birthday parties and celebrations. Fortunately, you have all been behind me and shown so much support. I can’t tell you how truly grateful I am for each and every one of your orders.
I will be taking a rest next Sunday from roasts as 2 weeks in a row really takes it out of me. 12 hour day’s to prep for that many roasts and desserts, cooking, portioning, deliveries and of course loads of cleaning, well scrubbing the big roasting trays, it’s a hard slog 🙈. However, just a rest, and will do another in a couple of weeks as I love a Sunday roast as much as you all do 😉
THANK YOU 💗
Wild + Lees
Based in the heart of Herne Hill, London. Wild + Lees is a wine shop and tasting room. They have always had a strong focus on supporting the local community. As they state on their own website: keeping Herne Hill handsomely stocked with plucky wines and well-crafted beers and small-batch spirits. That’s their aim.
In the midst of the Covid crisis, they’re practically saving the local community one bottle of wine at a time – or several. What we find inspiring about these guys, is their lightning speed ability to reinvent themselves. Less reinvent, more adapt quickly to the needs of the community. But also the different ways we inevitably have to shop now.
Whilst they are traditionally a bricks and mortar retailer, jump on their website and they boldly describe themselves as a “Wine Delivery Service” now. Why try and be anything else at the moment? Do what people need; do what you say on the tin. Wild + Lees are a lesson to us all about speaking plainly and not offering more than you can cope with.
THE W+L TEAM ISN’T BIG ENOUGH TO HANDLE LARGE VOLUMES OF BESPOKE MIXED-CASE ORDERS, BUT YOU CAN GET ANY OF OUR PRE-MIXED BOXES* LISTED BELOW! IF NONE OF THAT TICKLES YOUR FANCY, YOU CAN BUY CASES (OF 6) OF ANY WINE FROM OUR ONLINE LIST. ORDER BY EMAILING HELLO@WILDANDLEES.COM
We asked Liam Plowman, their Director and “Head of Refreshment” what’s changed and how business is during this crazy time.
“Business-wise, it’s been great. Better than Christmas even. However, on a personal level, I can’t wait for it to be over. We’re trying to fulfil hundreds of delivery orders while also having the shop open and it just doesn’t work (hence answering emails at 4am). The support from customers has been amazing, so I am very grateful for that.”
Director, Head of Refreshment
Covid-19 hit the craft brewery industry, hard. Survival comes in finding some way to adapt, spreading the word about your online offering and ensuring quick despatch.
Our fellow neighbours, Brixton Brewery have achieved that in buckets. Despite their taproom shutting down, they increased their social presence, got noisy online and started offering FREE delivery. I bought a box myself so I know first hand how fast and efficient they are. We placed an order on Thursday at 2pm and it was delivered next day, just in time for Friday drinks. The only downside is the 330ml can size, meant I’d finished the box by about 8pm. We’re under lockdown, so who’s judging?
Brixton Brewery is also quick to engage their online followers. It not only helps promote their product but inspires repeat purchases. During the Covid crisis, they have an ongoing competition to design your own beer logo. Customers post their design ideas to instagram, then tag and follow @brixtonbrewery to win a case of beer. Come to think of it, we should enter WBC.
There’s so much we like about Brixton Brewery, besides their beer of course. they make a point to not just talk about themselves online, but keep a constant social media stream of thank yous for supporting them AND other local businesses.
If there’s one top tip to take from them it’s that, any chance you get to thank your customers goes a really long way. Every Brixton Brewery delivery comes with a simple, nothing fancy printed piece of paper that simply states
“Thank you for your order, and for helping to keep our business going during this unpredictable time. It means a lot to us & our staff. We hope you enjoy your beer and stay safe and healthy. Team BB”
Brixton Brewery is currently working on a 2-4 days lead time (possibly longer depending on dhl who are extremely busy) and you can shop them online at brixtonbrewery.com/shop
Fired Up Pizza & Cambridge Wine Merchant Stay at Home Kits
Fired up pizza is a company that’s all about the simple things in life. Mix simple ingredients and good people, and you end up with wonderful pizza and a great party. Can’t get better than that.
But when the Covid crisis hit, the party was put on the back burner and they needed to find new ways of servicing the local community. They teamed up with another of WBC’s customers, Cambridge Wine Merchants, to sell at home pizza making kits! Perfect for the whole family.
Each kit contains everything needed to make your own quality pizza at home. Fresh dough, that lasts up to 24 hours in the fridge. Tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. Semolina for rolling out the dough. They even have a step by step instructional video online to help you learn the basics.
What blows our mind even more than that, is each pizza costs just £5 including delivery to certain areas on certain days of the week. Great Chesterford on Monday, Cottenham on Wednesday etc. We love this idea of rotating business; everyone gets their pizza fix with less chance of business drying up.
These guys are a great lesson in collaboration as they team up with Cambridge Wine Merchant so you can order pizza and wine straight to your door. They have 3 packages to choose from for £20. Everyone gets sick of their own cooking, so make it easy for customers!
To order pizzas or drinks, place your orders here or at firstname.lastname@example.org. “We can take payment and pass on all the pizza money to Rory and Nancy and vice versa. We just want to help each other out and deliver great pizzas and drinks!
Planet of the Grapes
What has changed?
Well, all four bars have been shut for nearly 3 weeks now, so we have lost £150k of turnover… BUT – on the positive side we have picked up lots of retail orders and most of those are from people we never sold to before.
Going forwards, we will have a bigger database and the customers and shareholders we do have, are AMAZING and very supportive.
Business rates help, has been brilliant. As has the furlough scheme. We have not let anyone go and are supporting every member of staff, full time and part-time. *that includes paying their full wages for March with the whole company taking a pay cut from 1st April onwards.
Landlords are REALLY PISSING ME OFF!
They seem to think that having staff paid and rates reduced, means we can afford to pay them the full rent! WE ARE NOT TRADING!!!! A small amount of retail compared to our usual bar takings does not get close to our normal turnover. We’re miles away from the margins we normally make. All well and good if you have a single shop somewhere cheap – but with 4 central London bars with high rent and service charges, it is crippling us. Giving us time to pay does not help long term – it just moves the problem further down the road – we will survive now, but be broke this time next year!
What is getting me through all this is the support of my family, colleagues and customers. They have all been the difference between going bust, mad and actually making a fight of it.
There – you asked!
Matt Harris, Planet of the Grapes
– Planet of the Grapes is a small group of wine bars and shops based in the City of London. Each bar is also a wine & Spirit shop with an ever-changing list of over 300 wines from around the world – plus a wine-friendly food menu too. Win-Win! Find them at Leadenhall Market, Bow Lane, @foxfinewines, London Wall, Sicilian Avenue and Holborn, or online during lockdown. Matt is also exceedingly amusing on twitter too – just saying.
Of course, it’s a very tricky time for us all, especially running your own businesses.
Despite juggling the kids and having no social life, we feel incredibly thankful to all the key workers out there who are taking care of us all.
My typical everyday challenges seem pretty minimal when I think about the people on the front line. Thank you to them all. A real plus point for me in all this is being able to spend more time with our children. It’s given me time to reflect, slow down a little and breath during these quieter times. We are all so busy these days!
I feel very lucky to be in business with my partner. We spend every day together anyway, so we don’t find it a challenge to work and live at home together.
The brands that supply iyouall, have been brilliant and are being very proactive and supportive during this challenging time. They keep us updated and send all the deliveries to our home, so we can continue (in a small way) on getting new product in and fulfilling pre-orders for our customers.
We are also very lucky to have some amazing customers/clients who keep our spirits high. We’re so thankful that they continue to buy from our stores or use our design studio services to keep us from (a) dying from boredom and (b) making sure we get up at a decent time in the morning. We really appreciate every sale and project that comes our way.
We’re honoured to be designing and working on a few special nonprofit projects relating directly to the Coronavirus Epidemic.
For example, we are currently designing the brand for a hand sanitizer for one of our current clients who will be producing these in their warehouse. It will be sold in premium stores and all the profits will be used to make free sanitizer for those who need it most. We can’t wait to see the outcome.
– iyouall is a homewares shop offering a curated range of lifestyle products for those with an eye for design. Usually you can say hi to them at one their three stores in Deptford, East Dulwich and King’s Cross. But until they open their door again, shop with them online or email email@example.com
How awesome is this? Iyouall has updated us with a project they’ve been involved with creating a hand sanitizer brand to help with shortages during the Coronavirus crisis. Cracking brand name too I think we’d all agree! Here’s the press release – go check them out, visit the website, support the brand and stay safe and clean!
Hande, a new London-based hand sanitiser brand, launches today. A collaboration between the founders of knitwear brand Country of Origin, and established design agency IYA Studio. Hande is entirely manufactured in an industrial space in Peckham, South London. Hande is designed as a premium organic product, made with TSDA organic ethanol and to a formula stipulated by the World Health Organization. It will donate 30% of its product to organisations in need, as well as a portion of its profits.
The London Restaurant Cooperative
There are many positive stories like this, but we love this one.
Steven Tozer is no shrinking violet. When Le Bab shut its doors a few weeks ago – owner Stephen Tozer, decided to take matters into his own hands.
He started The London Restaurant Cooperative, a food delivery service aiming to support key workers through the Covid-19 crisis, in three ingenious ways.
1) The Cooperative employs out-of-work hospitality staff to do all the food prep. Yep, everyone from chefs to waiters as delivery staff. At the moment, they’re mostly from Le Bab, but they intend on bringing in staff who have been made redundant or put on furlough as soon as they can. That also means as they bring new staff in, the delivery zone expands too!
2) All the meals are cheap as chips. Priced at just £6.50 a plate, it makes it affordable for most people struggling to prepare meals or buy ingredients.
3) Now then, this is the best bit. If you add just £4 on top, The London Restaurant Collective will also deliver a meal to a worker at UCL hospital, or to The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields homeless shelter. According to Stephen, they delivered nearly 300 meals in 4 days, and this week committed to 100 meals per day.
How are they keeping costs so low? Stephen is covering the setup costs from his own pocket and giving 100% of the profits back to the staff. Any leftovers are given to staff to take home to their families.
– The London Restaurant Cooperative is open now. There are two meal options per day – one vegetarian & one non-vegetarian and you can order the day’s meal for £6.50 (and add on a £4 meal for NHS staff)
Franklins Farm Shop
Everything has changed.
My shop has only me working in it, now. I decided I can’t risk anyone with young children working here. I have mocked up a counter across the door using BRIX units from WBC – a two metres distance between it and my customers. I’m stood behind it, mask on, bandana tied around it. Still a slave to fashion and a pair of marigolds, aka Robo-Veg-Guy! I now have a market stall crossed with open all hours.
And we’re all in The Great British Bake Off. Everybody literally asks me for bread, flour, yeast and eggs. Their poor children are the victims in all this sourdough, they just want a slice of Mother’s Pride and a Jaffa Cake!
The only thing that is pissing me off is sales calls, are you for real lads? No, I don’t want to switch suppliers. I’m not thinking of a new card machine. I’m thinking, am I putting myself in danger, can I still pay everyone – they can do one.
I have had a couple of really sweet calls from older customers. They’re lonely, scared and stuck in by themselves; they just want a chat. I’ve got time for that. Hats off to every single person risking it by working in a shop, warehouse or keeping their neighbours fed.
Tim Sheehan, Franklins Farm shop