ACS Highlights Local Shops’ ‘Incredible Response’ to Covid-19 in Parliamentary Evidence Session

ACS has given evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, highlighting the incredible response of convenience stores in keeping their communities going during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking during the evidence session on Covid-19 and the food supply chaired by Neil Parish MP, ACS chief executive James Lowman told the Committee: “As the pandemic developed, consumers increasingly turned to the convenience sector to get their groceries, and we have seen sustained demand right through to now with spend in stores significantly up on pre-pandemic levels. This situation has shown that one of the strengths of the food supply chain is its diversity, and that’s something we need to emphasise more. Without the convenience sector there to support communities, there would have been far more significant issues with people getting access to groceries.”

During the session, the Committee questioned ACS and the BRC on how robust the supply chain has been throughout the pandemic, and whether products were still getting into stores. Figures from ACS’ Covid-19 Impact Survey show that more than a third of retailers (37%) have seen supply into their stores impacted to a large extent, although this did not necessarily result in empty shelves as retailers worked with local suppliers to source products elsewhere.

Mr Lowman said: “There have been understandable availability issues throughout the supply chain that are still live today, but retailers have adapted extremely well.  At a local level, a lot of our members have done an amazing job at getting in touch with local suppliers and suppliers that usually work with event and hospitality businesses to source products where they can’t get them from their usual deliveries.”

In response to a question from Derek Thomas MP about the growth and importance of deliveries to customers, Mr Lowman said: “We’ve seen an extraordinary change in the number of stores that offer delivery services. There are now at least 600,000 deliveries going out from convenience stores every week, often supported by local volunteers in the community. This is in addition to stores working with local authorities and groups representing vulnerable people to highlight the services that they offer.”

In the session, Mr Lowman also highlighted ACS’ current campaign with the Alzheimer’s Society to create 25,000 Dementia Friends in the convenience sector, the work that retailers are doing to facilitate donations to food banks and businesses like Company Shop, as well as providing support for carers who rely on local shops – especially during Carers Week next week (8th-12th June) where ACS is launching new guidance.

The Committee also explored the issue of safety in stores, specifically in smaller stores where keeping people apart can be more challenging. In response, Mr Lowman said: “People working in our sector are extremely aware of the risks of operating stores during Covid-19, but these have been mitigated through the widespread introduction of screens, maximum numbers of customers allowed in at any time, social distancing and other measures to keep colleagues as safe as possible. As a result, we have not seen significant levels of colleague absence during the pandemic.”

ACS resources and support for retailers on Covid-19 referenced during the session are all available here:

The full evidence session can be found on the Parliament TV website here:

This entry was posted by Chris on Fri, 05/06/2020 - 12:25