What did you do during lockdown? We took the opportunity to accomplish a big job of rearranging the grocery area – a three-to-four-day job which we couldn’t do during opening hours. We came in every second day, cleaning, rearranging etc.
We had permission from the MPI to open as we are a mini supermarket carrying grocery items, but we made the decision not to open out of concern for the safety of staff and family. We were one of only two Fruitworld shops that closed in level 4.
The rest of lockdown we spent time with our kids and elderly parents (who live with us) – we had a very good time of family bonding. It was quite different to going on holiday.
When we returned to level 3 we saw that the case numbers had reduced a lot so we thought ‘now we can open, it’s not too risky’. We just felt responsible for our staff and their families; the virus is deadly, and just not worth the extra dollar.
What effect has the lockdown had on your business? It’s the nature of the fruit and veggie game; you’ve got to be on your toes, you can lose a lot of money with perishables. Going into level 4 we sold everything off cheaply, and gave the rest away. We lost thousands, but over time we will get back to where we were. We are very fortunate that we are not out of business.
We have some commercial properties and gave our tenants free rent, regardless of their circumstances. Unfortunately, we did not receive rent relief ourselves, but everyone’s different.
Will you change your business model as a result of the lockdown? Fruitworld is setting up an online purchasing system. But I encourage our customers to “look, feel and buy”. No-one chooses produce like you do.
Our business model won’t change much though. We choose quality over price, and send shipments back to the depot if they are not good enough. We believe that buying the best quality produce is an investment in your health. Produce is seasonal and subject to weather. Growers spend months growing fruit and veggies which can be wiped out overnight. That creates supply issues, and a lot of people don’t factor that in when prices go up.
What have you learned about yourself and your business, and what will you do differently? We’ve been in business 18 years, and we work seven days. We are on our feet all the time, so it was really nice to have a break. The weeks of lock down were really valuable. Komal and I have decided that we will rearrange the business so that we spend less time here at work, and more time with family. We have always had a passion for ensuring customers have the best fresh produce experience, but now we realise that we haven’t allowed enough time with family and friends. We intend to change that in the months and years ahead.