As the demand for home-delivery and online services rocket during the coronavirus pandemic, how can businesses make the best of a bad situation?
No points go to Who Gives A Crap, the socially conscious toilet paper delivery service, as they have all but sold out of stock during the universal scramble for emergency TP supplies.
It might be just as well, as the yoga studios where their products tend to appear are mostly shut anyway.
But fortunately, fitness membership service MoveGB is offering yoga teachers and other fitness instructors the chance to stream their classes.
Elena Byers is one Bristol-based yoga instructor who is now teaching via video conference service Zoom.
Even though the pandemic is still fairly fresh to the UK, she is seeing lots of people log on to her sessions.
“This morning, I had 28 in my online class, some in Spain and one last night all the way in New York,” she says. “Everyone was in tears. People have been so supportive of us taking our community online.”
The situation is unexpectedly making older generations engage with technology they might not otherwise use.
“It’s empowering the less techy teachers and students to feel confident in using online tools more,” she says. “It’s nice to see.”
Elena is still going into Wild Wolfs and Now studios, which are closed to the public, to live stream from them.
“Other classes, I’ve been doing online at home and for free for frazzled people!”
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Purveyors of Bristol’s beer are innovating (albeit in a less digital way), by offering beer delivery services after the prime minister told people to stay away from pubs.
Left Handed Giant are delivering within a 3 mile radius on bicycles, while you should be able to spot Bristol Beer Factory’s vans delivering to the thirsty around the city. Both have discount codes for home deliveries which can be found on their websites.
Some relief for indie food retailers and customers alike comes in the form of Good Sixty, which offers home-deliveries from independent shops, cafes and producers.
“It’s no secret that people have flocked to the larger supermarkets to empty shelves, or have booked deliveries months away because there’s no immediate availability,” says Sarah Newell, marketing manager at Good Sixty.
“Running out of food is a real concern to people but often the smaller guys, who still have lots of fresh produce to provide the community with, get forgotten. That’s why we’re doing our utmost to support the independent producers we work with and serve locals with fresh, quality food essentials whilst we still can.”
Sarah says that the pandemic is resulting in an ever-growing demand for food deliveries in Bristol. But now, the self-isolating do not have to stop munching on East Bristol Bakery bread or Spanish deli delights from El Colmado.
“We’ve launched a non-contact doorstep drop service to accommodate customers concerned about interaction,” she says.
“Customers can easily request this service at checkout or by contacting us directly. Our couriers will notify the customer when their basket has been delivered to their doorstep to retrieve. And most importantly, we’ve put lots of additional measures in place to maintain the highest standard of hygiene and ensure we are delivering a safe service that Bristolians can rely on.”
Good Sixty has also expanded operations to get more riders and couriers on the roads. This may come as good news for the many freelance musicians who have had their gigs cancelled, one of whom spoke to Bristol24/7 about their hopeful plans to start working as a courier instead.
But while this may be an attractive option for independent businesses, it’s not necessarily the best case scenario for those already working as couriers.
Waldeir, a Deliveroo driver from Brazil, spoke to Bristol24/7 at the beginning of March about how his courier work was insecure and poorly paid. But now, he says, things are far worse.
“The situation is critical. Orders have fallen a lot since the virus was announced. And despite this, more drivers are leaving companies and coming to work for Deliveroo part-time. It is terrible.”
Despite higher pay in Bristol than in Brazil, Waldeir has taken the difficult decision to return to his home country.
“I am sending my family back to Brazil now, because it is safer there in terms of the virus,” he says. “I am going to try and leave in the next few weeks if the borders are still open. I think it’s going to be bad in England with everything that is happening.”
The pandemic has also overwhelmed Bristol’s closest farm, Leigh Court, who were forced to contact their veg box customers last night to say they will not be able to provide veg boxes to new customers and may be forced to do part-refunds to existing customers if they cannot buy in enough produce.
“Under normal circumstances, (the unprecedented demand) would be great news for us, but this isn’t normal,” began co-owner Chris’s email to his customers.
The farm is largely dependent on European produce from March until the beginning of June, and more so after a wet winter, but their suppliers are struggling with an enormous surge in demand, coupled with lockdowns in the places where the produce originates. Borders closing and disruptions to trucking all compound the uncertainty, and wholesale prices are set to rise as a result.
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Main photo by Aphra Evans.