With the country in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, small businesses all over the land have had to step up and supply the nation with their necessities.
At the moment, people are finding themselves turning to smaller local suppliers in order to avoid the large and often crowded supermarkets, whilst also supporting local businesses and their workers.
We spoke to retailers across South Wales to find out how they are coping in the current climate.
Laura’s Fruit Shop, Canton
Richard Swambo has been trading as a fruit seller at Laura’s Fruit shop for 26 years.
He said: “We have limited the shop to three people in it at a time for the safety of our customers and staff, but predominantly the domestic delivery side of our business has exploded.
“About 12 days ago, when they announced that the over 70s should isolate, we did see a lot more bulk buying from our customers with more solid items such as potatoes and onions.
“We are just having to go day by day, it’s been crazy. I’ve been making orders up for delivery from 6.30am this morning and I am still going late into the afternoon. I’ve taken on a few volunteer delivery drivers to help get fruit and vegetables out to those in isolation.
“On the shop front side, things have calmed down a lot since the lockdown, but we are still getting enough people through the doors to warrant staying open for now.
“I think at the moment, everybody knows the situation. We are classing ourselves as key workers. The moneyside will take care of itself, but we are responsible for making sure things don’t break down. We are doing it to make ourselves proud and knowing that we are doing our bit.
“The easiest thing we could do at the moment is close our shop. We will rise to the challenge as a nation. We get a lot of appreciation and that’s what keeps us going.”
Ty Tantanglwyst Dairy, Pyle
Rhys Lougher, 38 has been running the milk delivery side of the dairy for 14 years, but his family have been milking cows at Ty Tantanglwyst for generations.
Despite the dairy being an essential business, they have had a rollercoaster of a time.
Rhys said: “50% of our customer base was wiped out overnight; schools, cafes and restaurant deliveries were stopped all at once. However, our domestic doorstep delivery has gone bonkers.
“It’s quite slow to gain volume. For every school we’ve lost we need a dozen households, but processing those orders takes time.
“We are very grateful for people’s support. We have established milk rounds, and we can only take on new people that already live along those routes.
“We have had to temporarily close our books to catch up on the administration of all the orders, but we should get them up and running again soon.”
The business consists of 24 workers who are currently pulling 18-20 hour shifts daily. They conduct the entire supply chain on site.
Rhys continued: “There is quite a weight to the responsibility serving the community, we have to ask people to bear with us. We are grateful that we are able to keep going in the current climate and hope that people will stick with us in the long term. We hope the demand remains after all this is over.
“We have lots of spare milk, we are just trying to keep up with the admin side of things.”
H R Jones & Co, Clydach – Hardware shop
Bernard Evans is 74, but is still keeping his business going in Clydach, which has been a staple in the community for over 125 years.
Bernard said: “We have been exceptionally busy, people can’t get lots of goods anywhere else. People have been buying mainly bits for the garden; vegetable seeds, carrots and potatoes, or anything they can grow in their greenhouses. Other people have been buying our small supply of pet food or paint to do some DIY whilst they are in lockdown.
“Although these are hard times, it’s nice to see people going back to the old ways, like olden times.”
In the shop, Bernard has younger staff members doing the serving so he can limit his contact with people, as he is classed as vulnerable.
He said: “I have to still be here for the ordering of products. It was easy in one way to stay open but I am concerned that as the numbers of cases increase, that it might become more dangerous. We’ll just keep going until told otherwise. We have a barrier and markings on the floor. We don’t let people go round and touch things.
“The supply chain is not as it was. Delivery dates are taking longer. Not everything is available. I was offered hand sanitizer which you can’t seem to get anywhere, but the prices were more than what they would have been originally on the shelf. I would have had to go up and price them at £10 per small bottle. I don’t want to be accused of profiteering. we’re not that sort of store, so I’m still thinking about whether I should buy it.
“It feels good that we are helping out, people seem to be very glad that we are open. It’s a strange feeling when you look out on the high street and don’t see many people around.”
Andrew and Debbie’s Family Butchers – Kenfig Hill and Maesteg
Andrew Garner has been in the butcher business for 21 years. He only opened his second shop in Kenfig Hill five weeks ago, and the coronavirus outbreak has been quite a surprise.
Andrew said: “We are doing half day hours in the Maesteg shop as it’s quite small, we are not feeling as safe with staff and customers and I am asthmatic. We will be closing that store on Saturday, but keeping the Kenfig Hill one open as it is bigger.
“We will continue to operate our home delivery service from that store. There are only four of us working round the clock to keep up with demand. We haven’t had to take on more staff yet, but we are just hoping that once all this stops that people will still choose to shop locally.
“While all this is going on, we will do what we can for people. We have started getting bread as well that we can deliver and our customers have been really pleased so far, we have had a good response.”
He added: “It seems that people are preferring to come into the smaller stores again, but we have seen these trends before, not on this scale, but time will tell if that continues once this is over.
“At first people were buying so much that it was difficult to keep stocked up, but because we deal with other local businesses we can source things. People have seemed to calm down since the lockdown, but people are worried, you can see it in their faces.”