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How lockdown spurred move to deliver on goal

By TAN XINYU in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-09-23 16:35
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Editor's note: This news column showcases stories from around the world that bring a touch of positivity to the fight against the deadly coronavirus.

A delivery worker rides a bike between street barriers to assist social distancing in the City of London financial district, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain, June 30, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Lockdowns around the world have swelled demand for home delivery of food and other necessities. In a timely move, London Food at Home, an online platform for food shopping in the UK, entered the market during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Sales went through the roof during first three months of the lockdown but decreased steadily as things reopened," said Florent Gacon, who owns the platform. "We did over 1,000 deliveries within two months of the lockdown starting."

Gacon, with his business partner Roberto Espinoza, set up London Food at Home within four days of the lockdown being imposed on the British capital on March 23.

They decided that it would be best to put the delivery business online, given that it would be easier to manage.

Gacon said the operation is based in the Borough Market and Spa Terminus, two well-known food markets in London.

"We wanted to show that not just supermarkets could do home delivery and that small artisans were also able to be catered for and can feed the nation," he said.

Many marketplace halls closed during the lockdown in the United Kingdom, and that spelled problems for vendors of products with a short shelf life.

Gacon thinks his business didn't "make any real profits" in that period as they invested heavily.

"The most important thing was not to throw away products and to help other business keep going, especially those that don't have an online presence or the possibility to do home delivery," he said.

Gacon said the biggest challenge the business faced was how to manage the supply chain and the quality of the products.

"Nobody really knew how to manage as volumes were so unexpected," he said. "But by using suppliers that are really near to us, we were able to communicate every day and manage the stocks we needed."

In England, pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen on July 4. With that development, Gacon saw a big decrease in orders as many of his customers chose to go back to supermarkets or to eat out.

He said the next six to 12 months will be crucial for the business, but he is not counting on much support coming from the government.

"We should be OK until Christmas, but I am a lot more worried about the first half of 2021," he said.

The London Food at Home platform began business with a minimum order of £30 ($38.50). Now that's been raised to £50, in an effort to help boost margins. Gacon said the introduction of a traffic congestion charge in London was a factor in the decision.

"The charge is £15 per van per day and every day this is a big hit for us," he said. "The traffic has increased, meaning the vans are on the roads for longer and we're spending more on fuel."

The platform uses its own workers for deliveries.

Amid uncertainties in the UK's coronavirus battle, Gacon said he will do his best to keep the business going.

He aims to increase the company's headcount to 80 for the Christmas season, up from 12 during regular times. Gacon said the company will try to gain opportunities from the many Christmas markets in the country.

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