Quarantine in Ukraine has been going on for several weeks now. Ukrainians have almost adapted to life in self-isolation, but sometimes, they still have to leave the house, e.g. to buy food and bread. The latter remains one of the essential products «on every table». Nevertheless, it can also be affected by the crisis in the country.
Yet, what is really happening today and has sales volumes of this «number one» product changed? Mind.UA spoke to Boris Shestopalov, co-owner of HD-group, to find answers to these questions.
Bread is among the products which demand is stable and usually increases in times of crisis.
Since the beginning of quarantine, we have seen an increase in product sales, but today it has returned to the pre-quarantine level. Our businesses are currently operating 24/7.
Certainly, the crisis has made many adjustments to the work schedule of our group's businesses, as today we have taken a number of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to strengthen the procedures for compliance with the relevant quarantine rules and regulations.
The stability of the supply chain is carried out, as before, by our procurement center. The main thing we did was to identify 20 key raw materials and packaging items. We are now increasing their regulatory inventory, signing contracts with suppliers to increase volumes of shipment and to create insurance stocks for us in their warehouses.
In general, our assortment has remained practically unchanged. However, we started packing all the bread. So now almost all the produce is cut and packed.
Surely, this has led to a significant increase in the cost of packaging material. But I understand that this is a must nowadays, and soon selling unpackaged goods will be almost impossible.
Safety and sanitation rules
In terms of product safety, we have tightened control of all chains both at the «entrance» and «exit» of the enterprise.
Several measures were implemented, namely:
- additional control of packaging of raw materials coming to the enterprises;
- barriers between group enterprises and third-party machines;
- daily disinfection of all cars;
- transition to product packaging;
- thermometry for all personnel introduced at all enterprises;
- total disinfection of enterprises, "masked" mode of personnel, minimizing the contact of our employees with the outside world.
Workflows couldn't help but change. All office staff who could shift to remote working mode has done so. We strive to maximize staff dispersal at workplaces to minimize crowding. All this, undoubtedly, has influenced the operation mode of our enterprises.
The enterprises of our Group continue to function normally. As we continue to do our work, we are demonstrating that the set of safety measures taken is aimed primarily at our staff's safety. That adds confidence to people.
Besides, all our employees have insurance. We made sure that the insurance company we are partnering with will cover all the costs if such payments are not provided by the government. Although, as we all know, the treatment of people infected with coronavirus is state-funded.
Apart from that, we, with the trade unions of our companies, have decided to allocate funds for treatment in case that one of our employees would be diagnosed with COVID-19. We are ready to provide maximum support to our employees if the need arises.
How to withstand
We are aware that a long quarantine will result in a prolonged downturn in economic activity and we all, following the wave of the global pandemic, may face the consequences of a global economic crisis. In these circumstances, it is difficult to say something new and share some unique experiences.
We have focused on the following basic steps:
- cost reduction;
- customer retention;
- sales development;
- careful monitoring of the range;
- maintaining human capital and maintaining the confidence of our employees in tomorrow;
- decent financial support for those workers who we may have to say goodbye to.
We are all part of the global economic construct. It is impossible that only one segment of the business to be affected by a crisis. Therefore, it is important to negotiate with banks and landlords in times of crisis. All parties must be contractual. Only in this case, the Ukrainian economy will not fall like a card house.
Everyone should understand that now is the time of survival. In my opinion, we need to convince all partners to act like ones, and certainly to meet these criteria.