One of Scotland’s community-owned shops has shown true resilience in the face of challenges getting normal food supplies to its shelves for the local people it serves.
Hannah Clinch, from The Lido at Innellan on the Cowal peninsula says:
“We were only receiving a small portion of our normal supplies from our wholesaler a few weeks back, as panic buying started in the supermarkets. We felt the impact locally. We were thrown into finding alternative sources of key items like milk, pasta and bread in a hurry.”
Gigha milk in traditional glass bottles, pasteurised in the old fashioned way, from the Wee Isle Dairy on the island of Gigha, came to the rescue, along with Kents the Butchers with their popular meat pies, and large scale catering packs of pasta and flour! Since the milk supplies Wee Isle Dairy ice cream and toffee sauce has become very popular.
South Cowal Community Enterprises achieved a community buy out of The Lido just a year ago, and has since been a lifeline of local groceries and supplies, and even more so since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Hannah Clinch is the business development manager and her business plan for the next 12 months had been to broaden her list of local suppliers to The Lido Shop, and to seek out more local produce, a plan which was anticipated to take the next 12 months.
However, that plan was condensed into a week at the start of the pandemic, lockdown, and with panic buying affecting their wholesale deliveries.
“Gigha Milk from Wee Isle Dairy was coming to the mainland to another local shop and so we asked if they could supply us too. Their milk tastes amazing as it’s pasteurised in the old fashioned way, at a lower temperature over a longer period of time, compared to milk produced for high volumes. It’s a glorious reminder of childhood for some. And now they are bringing us their amazing ice cream and toffee sauce. It’s Wee isle Dairy mania!”
Local producers have totally stepped up to the mark. Kents the butchers have started supplying The Lido with their butcher made steak and meat pies which are flying off the shelves.
“We have repeat orders every few days!”
Argyll Coffee Roasters, artisan coffee suppliers, has started a blog to help customers get more out of a special brew, when making a pot of real coffee at home, is a big treat. And like many, they have taken up online sales after cafes and restaurants were forced to close reducing their trade sales. Black Bakery has been supplying us for years. They’ve shut their tea room, and shops but continue to bake, with social distancing challenges and are able to continue to supply us freshly baked rolls and bread as Hovis partners.
“We have developed a new collaboration with Fyne Ales, at Loch Fyne. Finding themselves with increased online sales – we have been able to give them our cardboard packaging waste which we are struggling store it now that the Council isn’t able to uplift recycling. And as a sustainable company, they pack their online deliveries in shredded cardboard and a member of their staff lives locally and can pick up. It’s a win-win.”
“It’s been exhausting for many of our suppliers, changing tack in how they operate, but as a small operator we can change direction quickly and seek alternative sources and meet our demand. We are delighted at this result.”
The shop has shortened its opening hours with some staff needing to self-isolate, but has had higher footfall as there is a trend also for customers not to want to wait in long supermarket queues due to social distancing rules.
“We have been buying catering pack sizes of flour, pasta and lentils and decanting into retail sized packs to sell to our customers – it’s been the only way we have been able to get supplies of carbohydrates like this!”
Another community shop on the Isle of Skye operating out of a shipping container tells a similar story: Sleat Community Trading on the Isle of Skye runs Armadale Stores, their community shop. Catherine De Vries says:
“We had to adapt very quickly.”
“Initially we saw fewer customers but recognised some sons and daughters food shopping for elderly parents.”
“We had to move to a delivery service and we were challenged on social distancing as our shop operates out of temporary premises in a shipping container! So 2m distancing is hard!! We have been serving customers out of the window or letting just one person in at a time. And we have to keep to strict cleaning guidelines.”
“Customers have been fantastic and really appreciate what we have been doing for them. Sometimes they have to wait outside for up to 10 minutes, but we never hear them complaining.”
The feedback they give on social media confirms this.
“They are providing a fantastic service to our community during this time of crisis, selflessly putting their needs before their own.”
"We have a huge list of volunteers to help. We are also good at keeping in touch with the more vulnerable members of our community and we know when someone hasn’t shown up.”
Linsay Chalmers, development manager with Community Land Scotland said:
“It’s great to see our Members pulling out all the stops to support their communities and building relationships with local businesses in this challenging time. Research carried out by Community Land Scotland showed that contracts to local businesses increased by an average of 4000% after a buyout.”