Celebrating the Heart of Our Communities

As is the theme of 2020, this year’s Heart of the Community conference looked rather different to our usual setup, due to Covid-19 were unable to gather physically so instead this was done virtually and I’m pleased to say that this was done successfully.

In the first session, we welcomed panellists Will Tanner (Onward), Michaela Rhode (BritainThinks), Helen Walker (Carers UK) and independent retailer Harj Dhasee to discuss the critical role that local shops have played in supporting the communities that they operate in. We have seen countless examples of convenience retailers going the extra mile to feed their customers, from offering home delivery services to offering dedicated shopping hours for NHS workers.

The second session of the day explored the impact of Covid-19 on food and what this could mean for the convenience sector. Panellists Sarah Williams (Sustain), Ed Perry (Cook Trading), Paul Gerrard (Co-op Group) and Jess Attard (Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity) highlighted the fantastic work that local shops have done to ensure that they can continue to feed their communities and provide them with vital services while keeping their customers safe. Local shops have acted as lifelines for their communities and these efforts have not gone unnoticed.

This year’s conference had a fantastic level of engagement from the audience, sadly we were unable to address all of the questions that we received during the conference (note: we need to get a better panel chair next year) and that is why I wanted to take the time to answer some of these questions below. Thanks if you asked one of these questions: 

How many deliveries are being completed by retailers every week to customers?

One of the key changes that we have seen since the start of the coronavirus outbreak is an increase in the number of local shops offering home deliveries. At the beginning of the crisis there were millions of people shielding and self-isolating across the UK and as a result there was an influx of customers looking for ways to get their groceries. Our Covid-19 Impact survey revealed that local shops make over 600,000 deliveries per week, acting as a lifeline for some of the more vulnerable members of our communities.

What impact does home working have on the way people eat and shop?

Government advice has called for those who can work from home to do so, and this has meant that many workers are swapping their offices for their homes. As a result, we have seen changes to the way that customers are shopping and what they are shopping for. We have seen customers turning to their local shops to feed their families, some visiting to pick up items during their lunch break and others making a conscious decision to opt for products sourced more locally and it will be interesting to see which of these behaviours are time-specific and which continue into the future. The location of many convenience stores close to where people live definitely presents some opportunities here.

What can retailers do differently in locations where new restrictions are introduced in the second wave?

As we come into a second wave of the virus, the Government is introducing a tier system, each with their own restrictions. I wrote a blog on key lessons from the first lockdown and hopefully this is a decent framework for thinking about the next phase, particularly if your area in in a “high” or “very high” tier with more restrictions. I would pick out communication as a key thing to focus on: using social media to engage with your customers and inform them about the services and the products that you have available. The other side to this is listening to updates on local changes, so follow your local authority on social media, check their website, and contact ACS if you need any help understanding the rules in your area.

Politics Professor and bestselling author Matthew Goodwin opened the conference offering some in depth political analysis on how the relationship between the citizen and the state is changing as a result of coronavirus, and we’ve had some great feedback on his presentation. Professor Goodwin also answered a quick fire round of questions and given he’s got a good track record of predicting political events and election results I’ve included them here for you to tick off as they come true … or to call him out for getting them wrong:

  • Who will be next US President (Matt said Joe Biden)
  • Will Boris lead the Conservatives at the next election (No)
  • Will there be a Scottish Independence Vote in the next 10 years (Yes)
  • Will Keir Starmer ever be Prime Minister (No)

You can catch up on the discussions from the conference by searching the #HOC20 hashtag on Twitter and as always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of the ACS team.

This entry was posted by Chloe on Wed, 14/10/2020 - 09:56