Mark Lythe, joint managing director (operations & finance) of Pricecheck, discusses the impact of COVID-19 on the business, which has customers in over 80 countries.
How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business?
Over 42 years, Pricecheck has played an important part in the supply chain, and that is no different today.
Unfortunately, a number of our customers have had to close their doors. From those that remained open, we were inundated with requests, and for some products demand far outweighed supply. This meant our team had to remain flexible as our focus changed; for instance, we adapted the buying team to focus on essential products in the early stages.
Our team have been fantastic in ensuring we continue to fulfil as many orders as possible and we’ve been able to keep most lines in stock.
Our team will always be our number one priority – ensuring they felt safe and comfortable to continue to work has been of utmost importance. We’ve adapted our ways of working to introduce a new ‘work from home’ policy where possible and we’ve restructured the office layout to adhere to government guidelines.
With increased demand for personal hygiene/cleaning products and household cleaning products, how has Pricecheck managed stock allocation to customers?
Our customer operations team are working around the clock to ensure customers of all sizes receive their fair share of stock.
We know that now, more than ever, consumers are relying on the local independent and convenience stores, particularly when it comes to a ‘stock-up shop’. Our aim is to ensure our products reach as wide variety of outlets as possible so that the public are able to find what they need in the most convenient location to them.
Have you been able to source substitute items where you cannot obtain supplies of existing lines?
The good relationships we’ve built over the years have been more important than ever. We’re thankful for our existing partners who have been able to assist us in sourcing and supplying a range of essential products and keep stock flowing, whether the demand has been for grocery, personal hygiene and cleaning supplies, or hand sanitiser, face masks, skin care and cosmetics.
We have been able to forge new relationships with a number of key suppliers as the industry pulls together with a common aim – to provide the country with essential items.
How are you servicing customers beyond deliveries of products?
Our customer service levels have been maintained at the high standard Pricecheck has become known for. We’ve placed emphasis on being open and available so that our partners can reach us whatever their query. This has been helped by our team adapting their ways of working from our usual face-to-face approach to utilising video conferencing much more.
We have been busy moving a number of our customers over to online ordering. This is to make ordering with Pricecheck as convenient as possible – they can now access our catalogue of 6,000 products online 24/7. On 6 May, we will be launching a brand new ecommerce site that places customer convenience at the heart of Pricecheck.
Are your delivery drivers following new procedures? Do they have/need any personal protective equipment (PPE)?
We work alongside a third-party logistics company, which, like many in the business, have changed and adapted procedures following government guidelines. We’ve also changed our approach to loading and dispatching goods to ensure there’s no contact with members of different teams and have provided our logistics company with hand sanitiser to help their staff keep safe.
Have you had to furlough any of your employees?
Export sales account for around half of our turnover and so, with many of our customers sadly having to close their doors across the world, we did experience an initial reduction in business activity which resulted in the decision to furlough some of the team.
Due to a recent uplift in export activity and as the UK continues to adjust to trade in new ways, we’re beginning to bring team numbers back to normal.
Have any employees been/are off work with the illness?
We have had no confirmed cases and have had no staff illness or self-isolation within the past three weeks.
What has been your strategy for managing the business during the COVID-19 challenge?
As will be similar with many businesses, the uncertainty and fast pace of this ever-changing situation remains a challenge. We try to forward plan as much as possible and pre-empt government announcements but our priority with any decision has always been our team’s safety.
Pricecheck has been a business that, over the years, has a proven ability to adapt, innovate and remain flexible when challenges arise. We have established a specialist senior leadership team who continue to monitor the changing situation. This ensures we can remain in constant and open communication with our team and business partners.
What impact do you predict on your business if the lockdown continues for months rather than weeks?
Our senior team are preparing for a number of outcomes as best we can. We’re confident that the measures we’ve taken will enable us to remain strong and functioning however the future may look.
We wish a speedy return to normal for businesses across the world and look forward to working with our customers once again to provide the right product at the right time.