Believe it or not, this time last year we were thinking about stopping our home delivery service due to lack of demand and the growth of our other business, Fresh Fruit at Work.
Fast forward a couple of months, we’re shortlisted for Britain’s Best Greengrocer 2020. 85 of our Fruit at Work clients postponed their orders. We’re the busiest we’ve ever been on Doncaster Market selling 2 tonnes of potatoes a day (usually takes us a month) serving over 2000 customers.
However, 16th March arrived, LOCKDOWN. Whilst still on a high we had 24 pallets of produce direct to Doncaster Market from a caterer in London who shutdown overnight. The produce was cheap and excellent quality, perfect for us! Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case as town centres in Rotherham and Doncaster were deserted from Monday.
Overnight, we had over 1000 orders online which made our website completely crash! Straight away, family meeting! After a couple of hours Monday evening we made the tough decision to close all our retail outlets for the safety of our team as no one had a clue how serious this virus was. We shut the website down putting all our efforts into delivering the backlog of orders socially distant to peoples doorsteps. With demand greater than ever before from food banks we decided to donate a good proportion of the produce we received from London. People of Doncaster especially, were living off food fine dining restaurants in London eat.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, we realised this was sticking around for a bit. Que a website developer that can sort our website out overnight whilst receiving in excess of 300 orders per day. Whilst Ryan was sorting that, i was sourcing produce which no one else could, Compost, baking powder, flour. Never in my life would i have thought we were going to sell so much flour. Collectively, last year we sold 1180kg of flour. We then brought Longley Farm, Crusty Cob, Plane & Armstrong Butchers and Tony’s Plaice on board to give the customer the full choice delivered to their doorstep on top of supporting fellow traders on Doncaster Market.
This carried on ridiculously busy for 8/12 weeks til the shops opened back up in June. We also decided to open our stall back up in Doncaster Market which was welcomed by so many regular customers. From then on we were searching tirelessly for a unit big enough and in the right location to support our service. We also invested in new vans and conversions to refrigerate them for our ongoing dairy, meat and fish range.
Thankfully by September we had the keys to our warehouse in Maltby. We eventually had a permanent base to grow our delivery service. With a cold room bigger than any of our stalls, racking the full length of the 3000 sq ft unit we definitely had space.
I’m always one for thinking of new ideas and products we don’t currently sell. By November, i knew Christmas tree suppliers but only really played about with them for friends. However, i wanted to go into them properly. I ordered one pallet and received 2 with a bill for £4000 to be paid within 2 weeks. Safe to say my accountant (my dad) wasn’t pleased! Always one for a challenge though, we had to sell them. The rest is history because my dad doesn’t know i flogged the last 20 for £20 on Doncaster Market, they got a bargain!
With Christmas fast approaching, we rented 2 extra refrigerated vans, extended our product range and opened the delivery calendar. Within 4 days we were sold out with just under 900 orders to deliver in 3 days! We obviously fulfilled every order because we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Christmas was over, despite poor weather on the markets it was probably the busiest Christmas we’ve ever had. But we didn’t want to stop there, with raving reviews from customers we decided to get a good start to January with a Boxing Day sale. This was brilliant, we had over 200 orders in before we opened the warehouse back up.
Overall, 2020 was a year none of us expected. Very hard work for all involved and understandably a lot harder for others that couldn’t open their business and lost loved ones. We lost our Nan in June 2020 due to ill health, the last of the second generation of our family business. This was very hard to take in as she was very well known in the fruiterer community and she never got the send off she deserved. I forgot to mention we actually won Britain’s Best Greengrocer 2020 and as i type this we’ve been shortlisted again for 2021 with stiffer competition.