Steve Whitwam (seen far right) is the commercial director at Harvest
What have you learnt from the past twelve months from the perspective of running a wholesale operation?
Our systems and processes for B2B were not well-suited to B2C. There are some great e-commerce platforms out there and the fact that so many of us have adapted to buying more products and services online means that people have greater expectations of any online buying experience and we need to adapt accordingly. The percentage of our online order capture increased from about 17% pre-Covid to in excess of 50%. We recognise that we have an over-dependence on hospitality and need to diversify our customer base and think outside the box a bit more.
How has your business changed since the pandemic hit?
We adapted very quickly to offer a home delivery (B2C) service which was hugely successful. We had over 14000 new customer registrations and at it’s peak the run-rate for home deliveries was £5m per year. We have retained a sizeable proportion of that trade but it’s clear there is still an appetite for the general public to buy from Wholesalers. We discovered what a great team we had! Their response to the challenge was inspirational and the adversity really helped us to break-down some departmental barriers as we united in the struggle.
As we hopefully head into a post-Covid world, what advice/tips can you offer from what you’ve experienced?
Never give up! As an industry, wholesale has not received the recognition it deserves for the contribution we have made to keeping vulnerable people fed during the pandemic, nor have we been given fair and equitable support from government. We must keep fighting to receive some compensation for the losses we have all sustained as a result of the lockdowns. I have been inspired by the tenacity, adaptability and resilience of everyone in our sector.