Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, it is clear that as an industry we all stick together and do our utmost to support our partners in the trade as much as possible. The entire food and drink sector has been one of the hardest hit by this unforeseen tragedy, and I fear it is going to take a long time to come out of this crisis and achieve a stable ‘new normal’. All around us we have seen restaurants, pubs, bars, wine merchants, off licenses and hotels close their doors, and we hope that soon we will soon see them re-open at full capacity and regain their much-loved position in our towns and cities.
We entered the current situation in a position of financial strength having had a successful 2019, with no borrowings, and family ownership willing and able to take a long term view, so have thus far been able to manage the implications of the reduced demand for wine across the industry. However, we are in no doubt as to the seriousness of this situation.
In light of this, our commitment to you, our partner customers, remains the same. We will continue to deliver wine whilst you remain open and support your operation with our sales, marketing and customer service teams.
We are now, more than ever, working in close partnership with our customers and our advice to them as this moment is to continue to take advantage of the Government secured loans, to enable them to pay staff and suppliers in the short term – we are taking this same action, in addition to lobbying HMRC for a break in VAT and Duty payments. At this stage, it is all about cash and trying to balance out supporting customers whilst securing payment from them to enable us to pay our team, the majority of whom are on furlough.
We are of course advising our non-furloughed team, both on the sales side and at our head office, to follow government guidelines and to minimise their risk of exposure to Covid-19 as much as possible. On the practical front, our office based team is working from home, and we have systems in place to ensure there is no impact on day-to-day working life. Our sales teams already work from a home base, but we have increased the use of video conferencing to minimise the risks associated with travelling to and attending physical meetings. When in the office, we are ensuring that everyone complies at all times with required social distancing, handwashing and respiratory hygiene controls. We will continue to monitor the situation and our procedures will be updated as and when required.
With every crisis there are stories of going above and beyond and over the last few months it has been incredible to see the defiance of the hospitality industry in the face of this adversity. Many businesses in the On-trade have taken advantage of the government’s policy to allow pubs and restaurants to operate in the food home delivery market. We await to see the impact of the easing of measures in the hospitality industry, due from 4th July and are making plans for its return. In the meantime we are working closely with our customers in the trade to ensure that our service levels and partnership with them are not adversely affected.
We would like to thank our valued customer and supplier partners who, in the face of their own difficulties, have been incredibly supportive of the actions we have taken to manage our cash to ensure the stability of the Hallgarten business.
There is no doubting that we are all in this together and I wish everyone across our industry well.