Behind the Scenes with Ian Evans
This year has brought some big changes for us all, how did that impact on your business?
Yes, we found there was a negative impact on footfall and revenue as often people would just come in and browse and then suddenly there was reduced time to look around. But, I’d say there was more of an impact on the atmosphere. We tried to be jovial and welcoming. It was difficult, however, if people don’t want to wait outside or even leave the house. Really there were all sorts of problems associated with it and that’s ongoing as the reverberations from it are not going to suddenly stop. There was also the psychological impact, with some people feeling guilty about being in the shop, feeling they were taking too much time or that they were taking the last thing in the shop.
We have survived through all the lockdowns. The next challenge is surviving till Xmas! There is now a new normal with shopping habits altered for a very long time. We tried to do whatever we could to alleviate things, especially for our regular customers. We did deliveries every Friday, but sadly since we stopped doing them, we haven’t seen many of those customers in the shop! I’m very good at worrying about others, but then the Brits do this.
I can see that the town is now attracting more people, although many are saying that it’s not making much difference to their revenue. When restrictions were first eased the pubs were not opening outside because with all the regulations it just wasn’t worth it. Just seems to be more people on the streets. Is it just the excitement of being able to get out?
How did the Lockdown affect your staffing?
We have about half of the staff that we had pre-lockdown. It really forced us as a business to be more efficient.
We changed the layout of the shop. This was always on the cards but lockdown was the impetus. Lt also helped us be more efficient as we had to look at the whole picture – products, staff and customers. So, we moved it around and tried it out, looking at utilising the space better and how that worked both from a staff and from a customer perspective. Every day there was something to process and assess. It did make me realise, this was something I did naturally, but didn’t give myself credit for. There’s a lot to do covering all the paperwork and the front of house.
We’re very pleased that the reduced shop hours haven’t really impacted on turnover and staff get more downtime. I get more time with kids and catch up on jobs that I didn’t do last year, it’s always very busy though. It’s important to try and strike a healthy life/work balance.
What would you say were the positive things to come out of this?
Knowing that we’ve done all we can to look after our regular customer base, has meant a lot. From the beginning we were doing deliveries. There wasn’t any profit in this and it often involved me or Alice doing it at the end of week. It made sure we looked after our customers and they appreciated that. Now we are steadily busy.
Another positive was taking the opportunity to rejig the shop and it was done at time when sales were at their worst, so it helped to minimise losses on that front. Now going forward, we are more efficient and doing it with 50% less staff, I hope that the business should be able to sustain that – and I hope we can reward staff with better incentives.
Has Brexit affected you much?
It has affected timescales and the availability of some fresh produce especially cheese with those coming from Spain and Italy waiting months. It’s an education process for our customers as it’s out of our hands. It is very bizarre at the moment that whole coincidence of Brexit and Lockdown!
Looking for pos – has it come at right time – ues if we can survive that good -
What does it mean for you being a Slow Food Business Supporter?
At the moment it’s good to know that we’ve got that network, it shows that there are a lot of likeminded people. It is difficult, though, as a retailer to use as many of them as we’d like, as many of them have their own outlets. We have worked with Will at Shropshire Salumi or many years and seen his business evolve and his products just been getting better and better. We also sell Paso Primero wines and Shropshire Salumi uses them in his products too. We love trying to support them and if we can’t stock anything, we’re always happy to point customers in their direction.
I think some Slow Food producers have realised that just because a restaurant buys a lot of your product isn’t necessarily the end. Many people come to Ludlow to either learn about food or try something that suits their taste buds, so it’s good to be stocking these interesting and tasty things.
It’s also about the personal contact and that’s why we always try to stock products we are passionate about. I think people sense that and that it’s and then might be tempted to try something different.
I think the support that Slow Food is trying to offer, especially to producers is great, it creates a network and I’m all for trying to encourage that. It’s a great opportunity for new businesses to ask questions and no question is too stupid! We should all be utilising the Slow Food network.