Living in a shielding household I have had a particularly locked-down few months, with no trips to any supermarkets or shops. I have had to rely entirely on the internet, and telephone, to access goods. During this time there have been some brands that have stood by me and kept me supplied. They have become my lockdown heroes.
Orford General Store & Orford Meat Shed
Without a doubt the biggest hero during lockdown has been the village shop without whom we would have had to choose between shielding and being able to eat. It was weeks before we managed to get a delivery slot with a major supermarket, and with the restriction of 80 goods the basket to feed a household of three was soon full.
Our phenomenal village shop was not only very strict in terms of who could use the shop (non-locals were not allowed inside and had to give their order for goods from outside) but also kept a one-in-one out policy. They also went above and beyond and started offering a same day delivery service to those that needed it. Their process is simple – an email or phone call before 11am and the goods are delivered in the late afternoon (or available for pick up for non-shielding households). Our local butcher and fisherman have a similar set up. These local services have been a true lifeline to the many vulnerable households in our village. Despite the extreme stress of trying to keep an entire village supplied during lockdown they have always taken time to talk to people and remained cheerful. They have done everything possible to try to keep the village safe. For me these are the true unsung heroes of the lockdown and my family and I plan to show our gratitude by remaining loyal customers when things open up again. I hope the rest of the village does the same.
What would a British lockdown have been without booze and Chase Distillery kept my family supplied with sublime vodkas and gins. Vodka is my drink of choice but has also been impacted by my food intolerances – Chase is one of the few Vodkas I can drink. I also like Chase because it is a family run British business, that has shown true adaptability. A few years back the family farm was struggling to find a viable market for their potatoes. They decided to try to diversify and branched out into the premium crisp market, founding Tyrrell’s crisps (another family favourite). Their next venture was then into potato vodka and Chase distillery was born. Lockdown impacted the business again, as the bar trade dried up, but they have again shown real adaptability and diversified again into hand sanitiser. They have also made the most of the online world and have a growing fan base on Instragram, who they have kept supplied via their online shop. They have also found other ways to make money and engage their fan base through offering virtual tastings (which I hope they will continue post lockdown!). Had it not been for Chase’s fantastic online shop, and very swift delivery service, I would have had a very dry lockdown. Their virtual tasting also provided a wonderful social night in, and a reprieve from Netflix.
Another “vital” supplier during lockdown has been Divine Chocolate, who has kept my family happy during these stressful times. Again due to my intolerances I have problems with many chocolate brands – besides gluten I also should avoid soy. Added to this I try at all costs to avoid products with palm oil – my desire for chocolate should not come at the cost of the environment and the lives of orangutans. When you add these two restrictions together you are left with very few chocolate options in the UK. Divine is one of the few brands that is ethical and does not include soy. Their toffee and sea salt chocolate does actually taste divine and their delivery has also been very swift.
Whilst our village shop is stocked with all the basics, the selection of toiletries does not extend to body butters, which I use religiously morning and night to combat my dry skin. I naturally turned to Boots online … but failed. Due to high volume of traffic it was impossible to get on. When I finally did many of the products I needed where out of stock, including body butters. I therefore decided to go straight to the supplier and was overjoyed to find out that my favourite body butter brand, Soaper Duper, was not only fully stocked but was also cheaper than Boots. This is a company who’s big idea is “Clean and Green” which is important to me as I try to do my bit for the environment. Of all the deliveries I have had during lockdown the Soaper Duper ones have impressed me the most. Besides not using plastic packaging their delivery boxes are actually re-usable (I’m using mine for storing files) – genius idea! Needless to say Boots has lost my business and from now on I will only be buying direct from Soaper Duper.
What would this list of lockdown heroes be without a mention to the all powerful Amazon. With no access to shops Amazon truly stepped in and offered everything from cat treats and cat litter (which btw were sold out on the online pet retailers) to Jamon Iberico and goose fat (essential products). For a brand that in its infancy was slated and people said would never survive it has truly emerged as a retail powerhouse and a lockdown hero. For many people shielding Amazon was not surprisingly their lifeline.
There are of course many other brands who get honourable mentions but don’t quite make the heroes list. Lush, for example, is one of my favourite plastic-free products. However they closed all their stores, online and offline, at the start of lockdown! I had to quickly find an alternative bubble bath supplier with similar environmental credentials. Baylis & Harding Goodness brand filled the void but only sells via supermarkets or in bulk on Amazon so also does not make the heroes list.
One thing you may notice is that all of the above brands are company brands. The other thing you may notice is the total lack of pharmaceutical brands on that list. Without my Euthyrox I probably would not writing this blog as I would be too ill. Surely lockdown or no Merck should be one of my heroes?
This however is the reality of consumer goods versus pharmaceutical goods, and two very different approaches to marketing. All of these consumer companies have built up their company brand and not product brands. In our industry however we only focus on the product brands – but we are not able to promote these brands to our end users. Why as an industry have we never focused on that corporate brand, like most other industries?
The other thing that stands out is how all of my lockdown heroes have put effort into how they make me feel as a customer. The village shop with its above and beyond service, or Divine chocolate and Soaper Duper with their ethical approach. It is these qualities that drive customer loyalty. If Merck offered more than just a pill, but actually made me feel something (other than gratitude for keeping me going), what impact might that have on me when my physician tries to substitute my product for a generic? Just as I might say “that’s not Chase” I might also say “that’s not Merck”.
The other thing these companies have done is adapt – and very rapidly. Both Amazon and Chase distillery would not be here if they had not done research and then tried and tested ideas. Both adapted extremely quickly when they had to. When I then look at the pharmaceutical industry it is a very different story. Companies are still going through digital transformations and many have not yet adapted to the omnichannel approach (some are not event at true multichannel). When we lost the face to face channel during lockdown not all were able to quickly switch to another channel because they did not yet the tools and process in place. My lockdown heroes however adapted and did so very quickly.
My lockdown heroes kept me going through lockdown and have won my loyalty. But they should also act as an inspiration. Let’s not wait another few years to get to where they are – let’s follow their lead today.