At the end of September, we finally reached the end of another remarkable year. A year that will be remembered for weather extremes (floods to drought), the resurgence of the Brexit debate but most of all the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following restrictions and the lockdown commencing March 23rd we experienced a slowdown in sales like never before, this coupled with daily changes to regulations, and our determination to maintain business operations at all cost created challenges that our business has never faced in its 99-year long history.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I firmly believe this will prove to be the case when the crisis finally recedes, and life returns to a less restricted ‘new normal’. Much of our response has been remarkable – we adapted to reduced demand almost overnight creating new stock offers and opening up new previously untapped markets.
Staff numbers reduced rapidly with some staff furloughed, some shielding and at least ten office staff having the capacity to work from home to allow distancing in the space-restricted office building.
Our reaction and determination to follow the rules, coupled with a regimented sanitation regime and a naturally well-ventilated working environment have so far kept us mostly safe. Our resolve to ensure job security for all by continuing to ship and make much needed new plants throughout is a proven recipe!
The end result in our season 2019-20 is in my opinion, more remarkable than the previous year, which witnessed recording-breaking sales of over £14m.
Our sales of over £13.2m are our second-highest ever, and our success in reducing what could have easily been a mountain of unsold stock (otherwise known as waste) is almost miraculous when you consider the challenges. Profitability and cash generation has followed, and this creates a great buffer for the remaining challenges of the pandemic and Brexit that lie ahead.
Unfortunately, the challenges that we still face are no less significant than the battles we have fought, the pandemic refuses to let go, and the onset of winter will be a challenge.
Furthermore, we now face an exit from the European Union which offers little but uncertainty, confusion and increased cost. There is a misconception that a ‘deal’ will remove any potential limitations, and we will be able freely trade with our EU suppliers in an unchanged manner. This is not the case – new restrictions/regulations will limit what we can buy, will increase supply timescales significantly and will add between 5 to 10% to the cost of our plants, which might go on to have a limiting effect on what we sell.
The challenges we face are both unique and significant, but so is our resolve and core strength. We have the utmost respect for our ‘remarkable workforce’, customers and suppliers and remain eternally grateful for your loyalty, hard work and support. None of us know what the coming months will bring but individually and collectively, we can work together to limit the impact and maximise opportunities. This is what we did in the year gone and this is what we will do in the year coming.
With respect and gratitude to you ahead of our ‘Centenary Year’. - Group Managing Director, Graham Richardson
Posted 20th Nov 9:53am