FreshStop stores persevere through lockdown
By Musa Mashaba
As COVID-19 impacted the fuel and retail industry, FreshStop moved rapidly to meet standards and adjust its operations according to lockdown regulations. Many of the restrictions, such as a ban on cigarette and hot food sales, impacted the stores greatly but retailers adjusted their product offering to meet customer needs and ensure safety.
According to Joe Boyle, Managing Director at FreshStop, the fact that FreshStop had always offered its customers fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy snacks, and smoothies, as well as a range of grocery items made all the difference during lockdown.
“We were lucky to build on our fresh produce offering during this time and we were focused on introducing a larger range of healthier options.
We increased our Grab n Go selection to include prepacked food items such as hamburgers, fried chicken, wraps, etc, which reduced the need for one-on-one customer service. We had to move more towards a self-service model so that customers could pop in, find what they needed, and pay without too much personal interaction”.
First responders were initially one of the largest customer segments at 24-hour fuel forecourt convenience stores and, as a result, products were tailored to meet their requirements. There was a large increase in first responder shoppers looking for protein foods, fruit and veg, and non-alcoholic refreshments hot and cold.
FreshStop partners with Mr. D Food
To reach the most vulnerable customers during lockdown, such as the elderly and those without transport, FreshStop partnered with Mr. D Food. Customers can now order their favourite food, snacks, and cool drinks for delivery via the Mr. D Food App.
Adherence to strict hygiene measures in-store
All FreshStop staff were trained and information posters were positioned in-store. Store retailers control the number of people allowed into a store at any one time, and there is hand sanitiser throughout the store. Perspex sneeze guards were installed at food counters and at till points and all frontline staff wear masks or visors; and there are floor markers to ensure social distancing.
In addition, FreshStop was able to maintain job security for its employees, and the business supplied each employee with a Fresh Produce food parcel that contained healthy food items and essentials. To meet customer demand, FreshStop started selling hand sanitisers and reusable face masks in all stores.
“The good news is that sales have done well. Despite the fact that approximately 40% of sales were negatively impacted due to the ban on cigarettes, hot food, and coffee sales. We are very proud that some of our retailers are experiencing a 20% increase in overall sales turnover. In contrast, those stores located within CBDs and industrial hubs saw a major downswing but as an essential service, we remained open.
We thank our retailers and staff, who despite the challenges, did, and continue to do their best every day to keep our customers comfortable and aware of staying safe and healthy. A big thanks too to our government, suppliers and the industry who have been there throughout this crisis,” concludes Boyle.