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Chief Operating Officer Greg Deacon laid bare the challenges facing independent retailers amid the coronavirus pandemic when he was recently interviewed on KAM Media.

Speaking to KAM Media’s Managing Director Katy Moses, he said the impact on NFRN members had been “unprecedented” .

During the interview – which was published on KAM Media’s YouTube channel yesterday (April 14)  Mr Deacon discussed the initial changes witnessed by independent retail industry, the NFRN’s initial response and the support available for all NFRN members and how he expected the industry to look in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Mr Deacon said: “As coronavirus became more apparent and more visible in the UK – in terms of it being reported on our shores – our immediate thoughts turned to how we could equip ourselves, how do we make sure that we are tooled up and ready to support the members, because they’re really going to need us?

“We could foresee an avalanche of change coming in terms of the sector, customer behaviour and business operationally.”

The NFRN ensured that all employees were able to work from home as soon as a lockdown situation seemed imminent. Liaising with the government and working with suppliers was also important, according to Mr Deacon.

He continued: “Members have adapted really well. We’ve been assisting with business requests and documentation for grants from government.

“We normally receive about 300 calls from members a week and are receiving up to 1,500 a week at the moment. We’re also making about 1,000 outbound calls a week.

“We’ve seen a significant pressure in the supply chain in terms of availability. A lot of our members are going to the  cash and carry 2-3 times a day just because of demand.

“We’re working with suppliers to face challenges like products going to supermarkets, but not quite reaching the wholesalers or independent retailers directly. I do empathise with the fact that they have their own staffing challenges, like sickness and self-isolation.

“We’re working pragmatically with them in terms of what we can do to rectify the situation as soon as possible.”

Discussing the potential sectoral changes in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Deacon said: “We’re seeing a shift change in consumer behaviour. One thing that I think will become the new normal is delivery through local retailers.

“A lot of them have been really agile and totally transformed their business over night, quite frankly because they were forced to. But what’s amazed me is that they’re able to do it and pull it off.”

The entire interview can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykkAdgDVcMU&list=PLWPMi74qNBGSqV2XTrr6nAAyynFaDBzog&index=4

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