Well, what a fortnight. The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the lives of our team, customers, friends and families in quick and dramatic fashion. Fortunately, we have not had any serious health implications here at the brewery so far, but the wider picture is vastly different. From a business point of view here is a candid account of where we’re at.
With hospitality being one of most immediately hit sectors, we have experienced, quite frankly, a catastrophic drop-off in income. Between our export sales and on-trade market - approximately 85% of our regular business has effectively been wiped out overnight.
In addition there are a couple of other key pressures. The vast majority of our customers have requested a moratorium on their outstanding invoices, leaving us with an unenviable debtor book that will almost certainly not be anywhere near 100% recovered. Then of course we have a sizeable amount of keg and cask stock sat in our cold store in Finchampstead that currently has zero chance of ever reaching a bar (without compromising on quality - which of course we won’t do).
But where there’s a will there’s a way. Our team acted quickly to make the best of the situation, seeking out all possible routes to market and pivoting to provide great off-sale solutions through our own channels along with our trusted supermarkets, online retailers and bottle shops. The reaction has been unbelievable. We’re incredibly privileged to have such a passionate and loyal customer base, underpinned by an investor community that has rallied around us in humbling numbers. The result is that our direct sales in March broke all records. Enough to cover the overheads of a brewery this size? To be honest, no. But a glimmer of hope and positivity to keep driving forward with, and the motivation to keep good beer coming in these most difficult of times.
Circumstances have been changing daily and we’ve had to make a lot of difficult decisions. The most recent example - whether or not to even remain operational. Our priorities have always remained the same - the health and wellbeing of the team coming first, followed by the protection of jobs and the survival of the brewery.
So the current plan is this. We have reduced the team by about 50%, with half of our valued colleagues going into a ‘furlough’ period backed by the Government. We are able to retain our entire team this way. There is no-one coming into work that does not want to (hopefully this is obvious, but it is the only reason we are willing and able to continue production). We are working behind the scenes with our landlords, key suppliers and customers to work out cashflow solutions that benefit us all. We are grateful to each and every company who is working with us to keep supply chains going, and each and every customer who is openly communicating with us through these times.
We have stringent policies in place across our varied working environments to ensure the safety and assurance of our team. Reducing numbers in the buildings at any one time makes our strict 2m social distancing measures straightforward to implement.
Our brewplan is significantly scaled back, from around 10 brews per week to just one or two. Even that is somewhat of a financial risk, but we’re keen to keep beer flowing, keep doing what we do best and keep giving everyone something to look forward to. With that in mind, keep an eye out for new releases landing in the next couple of weeks.
Our webshop is now the main basis of our sales effort, and we’re re-gearing to make sure that we can keep up a good service (although your ongoing patience is appreciated!). Thank you to everyone who has and is using our website. Our Tap Yard team is doing an incredible job picking and packing orders for us. We have made the decision not to offer click and collect services at this time, as although a contactless collection would be possible, it does not seem right for a brewery to be encouraging people to travel at this time. We’re doing our best to deliver local parcels directly, however with a small team in place this isn’t currently possible for all orders on all days.
As a general rule, our pricing and free delivery thresholds are business as usual. We need to retain margin to make all of this viable, and have no desire to undercut long-standing trade customers. However there are a couple of exceptions to this, so if you work for the NHS, please make sure to request your discount code here. If you’re an investor yet to place an order, make sure you activate your account for your discount to be automatically applied.
There are battles to be fought yet. Our friends who run some of the most important pubs in the country are under threat immediately. Your favourite breweries will be forced to jump through hoops to try and get access to promised financial support, and some won’t be able to. People who have made this great scene what it is are already out of work. We’re here to help however we can, whenever we can, so please get in touch.
In general though, we take huge inspiration from our industry’s collective response. It’s difficult to write this kind of message without sounding cliché or repetitive at the moment, but your support has been incredible and is driving us to keep doing what we do best. We hope that our beer can continue to provide some source of joy, or even a hint of normality to those staying home and staying safe.
See you on the other side.
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