AS the Scottish Government announces its lock down easing plan, Scottish Bakers is asking that the current takeaway restrictions, that limit members’ food-to-go operations, are lifted on 5th April when certain other non-essential retail can re-open.
This request for an easing of these restrictions comes as Scottish Bakers release the results of a recent member survey, laying bear the huge impact COVID has had on Scotland’s much-loved high street bakers.
Scottish Bakers, the industry association which supports bakers throughout Scotland, conducted a survey of its members in late February to ascertain the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their businesses and the outlook for the sector as a whole.
Scottish Bakers members employ 12,000 across Scotland and include hundreds of high street bakeries and cafes as well as wholesalers supplying the hospitality sector, along with schools, hospitals and works canteens.
Bakers have worked hard to protect their customers by introducing new ways of working to adapt to the lockdown rules introduced over the 12 months of the pandemic. But the sector has been hard hit, despite its vital role in preparing fresh bread and bakery products daily serving our communities, institutions and front line workers.
The survey found some grim results:
- Around two-thirds of bakery firms supplying the hospitality sector have seen at least a 50 per cent drop in sales compared to the same period before the pandemic;
- Nearly half of high street bakeries report similar falls in sales; and
- Almost three-quarters of cafes operated by bakers are currently closed completely.
A significant proportion of high street premises are now operating at a loss and a third fear they may never open again.
As many of one in ten bakery businesses have already closed and almost half have been compelled to make staff redundancies. More closed their shops because of the additional measures imposed on food-to-go premises in Scotland from January 2021. This is only adding pressure to businesses already struggling to stay afloat and unless trading improves soon the outlook for the sector and its employees is bleak.
Scottish Bakers welcome the support measures provided in general to businesses during the pandemic – in particular the furlough scheme taken up by 90 per cent of firms. However, with trading conditions as poor as they are, the sector is now calling for more targeted support, such as:
- rates relief for wholesale manufacturers to keep their premises open and employees in work;
- access to grants for firms dependent on supplying the hospitality sector from the Scottish Wholesale Food and Drink Resilience Fund already available to other food suppliers;
- grants for high street businesses to cope with reduced footfall and turnover, similar to that already available to hospitality businesses; and
- rapid easing of takeaway restrictions in line with the general fall in infection rates and increased numbers vaccinated in the population as a whole.
Alasdair Smith, chief executive of Scottish Bakers, said: “I am extremely proud of how resilient, creative and hardworking our members have been through well over a year now.
“We have baked freshly every day, ensuring the communities we serve have access to fine fresh produce, and we have seen our members support their local areas – with home delivery, click-and-collect and the addition of basic groceries to their ranges. But to see the impact on the sector as a whole laid so bare is hard to read.
“I know our members will work hard and will pull through but it is vital that the government hear our voice and help support us as we have supported them through this crisis by keeping the nation fed. We look forward to seeing some of the policy measures we have outlined come to fruition and to helping our members to not just survive but to thrive.”
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