The news of several highly effective Covid vaccines has certainly brightened up the final months of 2020. After such a dark year, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s not the end of the crisis though, as the vaccines will take months to roll out to everyone, but perhaps we can say it is the beginning of the end – and that’s a damn sight more than we’ve had for most of the year.
A rough timetable could see life approaching normality towards the second half of 2021, so perhaps the foodservice industry and the catering equipment supply chain could tentatively start planning for a more solid footing at that point. In the meantime we will still have to grit our teeth through the cold winter months though.
There may be other economic casualties by the time we are fully on the upswing, but I think one element that shouldn’t be forgotten in these times is quality. Last month, I reported on one online dealer being taken to court for unreasonable restocking charges, and indeed losing the case. And from the deluge of comments on that story and indeed a flood of similar experiences being reported to me directly, it doesn’t look like an isolated incident.
While it can be tempting in this period to try and recoup lost custom by instituting additional charges, cutting back on service offerings or slicing margins to paper thin levels, in the long run the business will suffer. For dealers, operator customers will not forget shoddy treatment, and will let their feet do the walking, while further up the supply chain, manufacturers will want to disassociate themselves from distributors engendering such a bad reputation. And if the cash flow is not there, suppliers won’t get paid anyway.
Far better to maintain good quality, even if a distributor has to change pricing structures to ensure its good standing. Or indeed a complete change of ownership, like CDG’s recent surprise buyout, may be the answer to ensure long term growth at the moment. Whether this is the first of another large wave of market consolidation, we will have to see. But it makes sense that in these stormy conditions, a larger vessel will be more stable. And with still as-yet unknown Brexit consequences to come after 1 January 2021, those prevailing winds are not going to get much calmer for a while.
In the meantime, batten down the hatches, keep on keeping on, and stay fleet of foot to adapt to the constantly-changing conditions. After all, to just survive the flood of disasters 2020 has wrought is an achievement in itself. Have a safe and restful festive period, and I hope to see you all next year.