Media release: Crieff and Comrie baker, Campbell’s, call in the kids to help them bake for their community

Campbells tart

CAMPBELL’S Bakery is owned and run by Iain Campbell and his wife, Ailsa.

The business has two shops, one in the rural market town of Crieff and another, seven miles down the road in the village of Comrie, serving freshly-baked goods to the local community along with wholesale customers.

The business started to really feel the effects of the Coronavirus the weekend before lockdown and the owners tried to put measures in place to protect staff. Also, understanding many of their customers would not be venturing out, Iain and Ailsa realised they needed to go to them.

Owner, Iain, takes up the story: “We started a free local home delivery on March 18th. We decided to keep selling most of the products that are available in our shops, just removing some of the more work intensive items.

“We also started packaging some of our items in packs to make packing easier and faster. At the beginning, we were just taking orders over the phone but, after the first busy delivery day, we realised it wasn’t manageable and we needed to have orders only through the website.

“Luckily, we already had the online infrastructure in place; however, it has not been without its headaches!

“Leaving the online shop open 24/7 meant we were soon overrun with orders and had to pause them in order to catch up.

“On Good Friday and Easter Saturday, we delivered over 150 orders! Realising we couldn’t keep that pace up, we now open and shut the shop daily like a physical shop and limit the number of orders per day so we can keep up with all the other tasks in running the business.

“At first, we reached order capacity within half an hour, that has now stretched to 2-3 hours. We are constantly reassessing and adjusting our processes by what our customers are doing.

“Although as key workers in the food production sector we were permitted to stay open, our shop staff were becoming more and more worried for their safety.

“The majority of them either have underlying health concerns themselves or live with someone who does.

“So we decided to temporarily shut up shop and furlough all staff except for our senior night baker. This was tough, but the right decision.

“Since then, it has just been myself, my wife Ailsa and our two children who have continued to produce, pack and deliver to a few wholesale customers and local homes.

“Our 16 year-old daughter, Isla, who was due to finish high school at the end of her S5 year had an abrupt end to her school life when her school closed. We have been so impressed by how she has adapted to this new life and given her time to help keep her family’s business viable with minimal complaint. She is learning very valuable life and business skills during this time.

“Now that the restrictions are beginning to relax, albeit in a very small way, we are planning to start Click & Collect at the beginning of June and bring back some of our staff. We are having to consider the social distancing not just for our customers but also in the bakery.

“This is a complex planning challenge, where we need to consider very carefully the sequencing plus balance of sales versus overheads. Cashflow is a tightrope that we are watching extremely closely.

“Turnover is 30 per cent of what it used to be. We are extremely grateful for the government grants and we were pleasantly surprised how quickly we received them, they have been a lifeline.

“This year, our family is celebrating 190 years of baking since starting in 1830. We take comfort in the business’ long history surviving two world wars, the Great Depression and other world events.

“Until the Coronavirus, the two big challenges we were facing were a drop in footfall due to competition from supermarkets and reduced wholesale orders due to the low margins of large contract caterers. It has been lovely meeting our customers at their doorstep and making new customers who didn’t know about us before.

“Hopefully, a ‘silver lining’ out of all this will be people shopping more locally and supporting the small independent shops literally on their doorstep.”

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