We understand that small businesses are facing an unprecedented time of disruption resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While sadly many businesses have no option other than to close their doors, here at the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) we are hearing about business owners who have been able to innovate and find a new direction. This series of posts is about sharing ideas from WA small businesses that have found a way of doing business differently.
The Storehouse Fremantle is a bulk food store supplying low waste, packaging-free goods, run by Audrey Ting and Josie Black in South Fremantle. The business, started just 18 months ago, sources bulk produce including dried goods, liquid produce like oil and honey, and cleaning products, with a focus on them being Australian grown, sustainably and ethically produced, and organic where possible.
A central part of The Storehouse’s low waste approach means that customers are encouraged to bring their own clean containers to fill, use secondhand containers or paper bags provided in store, or purchase a new reusable container. Customers then select the amount of product they require from bulk food containers or dispensers, before purchasing by weight.
When social distancing measures were put into place due to coronavirus, Audrey and Josie realised their limited space did not provide the safest environment for customers, even when implementing changes like restricting shopper numbers. So instead of their usual self-service approach, they introduced a new ‘takeaway-style’ service.
This meant making some key changes to protect the safety of their staff and customers, and to comply with new health recommendations such as:
- greeting each customer at the door, taking their order and fulfilling it while the customer waits outside
- tightening cleaning protocols, with all scoops only used once before washing and high touch surfaces disinfected hourly
- suspending the use of customers’ own containers, instead providing paper bags, sterilised recycled containers or heavily discounted new containers to hold produce
- sterilising donated secondhand containers in store, before offering them as an environmentally friendlier alternative to new containers
- encouraging transactions using EFTPOS and taking online and phone orders
- offering a delivery service within their local area.
Audrey says, “The changes haven’t been without their challenges, including working around the clock to get our online shop running — an intricate task with more than 1,000 products! However, we are seeing this as an opportunity to grow and do the things we always planned for ‘someday’, such as introducing online shopping, sending out a customer newsletter and offering deliveries.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that we can evolve our business practices. Customers have been incredibly grateful for our flexibility and very helpful during the upheaval, with some even volunteering to drop off deliveries for us!”
“Despite teething problems with missing or misfiled orders, exhausted staff and the lack of face-to-face contact we all enjoy, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We are feeling optimistic that we will get through this and come out the other side even stronger.”
Thanks for sharing your ways of doing business differently The Storehouse Fremantle!