What examples of resilience have you seen during Covid-19?
Howard: It was interesting to see how the retail industry dealt with partners in the supply chain. Take the fashion sector; they were closed down, they had stock ordered and couldn’t sell it. Some retailers shut their doors, said they were not going to take the stock and effectively ruined the relationship with their supply base. Enlightened retailers had in-depth conversations with suppliers – they compromised and came to an agreement. Some of the big grocers started to talk to each other. Would Tesco have had such a conversation with Sainsbury’s five years ago? Talking to each other and coming to a strategy that helped them cope so they all came out at the other end served some retailers very well. Those that didn’t do this are paying the price in poor relationships with their supply base.
Nick: Diageo quickly set aside £100million to bail out all their pubs. They realised their customer base was predominately small independent outfits that could all fold. So, they propped them up and bought back the beer they’d sold. All the Guinness in Ireland was used to fertilise Christmas trees.
Arnaud: It was an extraordinary time. When have we ever had a crisis like this where a company had to cut its forecast by 75-80 per cent?
Howard: A lot of organisations realised how quickly they could move and adapt. Look at Tesco’s capability to scale online deliveries. That decision-making process would normally have taken two or three years – they did it in six weeks. The pandemic focused minds, and organisations quickly learnt from this and simplified their structures.
Hari: Product testing in the NHS had to be accelerated massively, and that was a challenge. That’s how you got stories about £20million worth of gloves no one could use.
In the early days of the pandemic, the Americans were going to China where there was a supplier who had guaranteed equipment to the NHS.
It was like a spy movie. They had suitcases of cash, they were intercepting NHS supplies and saying: “Here’s a suitcase, it’s 20 per cent more, divert it to this plane, not that plane going to the UK.”
One MD told the Exchequer we were fighting the Americans and other nations in the scramble for PPE coming out of China. The UK considered sending a team out to work closely with the FCO, but continued to work remotely. Crazy times – but we learnt so much!
Nick: Early this year, Wiskas cat food was off the shelf for weeks. I heard it was the packaging. There was one plant in Europe making the plastic foil packaging and they couldn’t get it to the UK.
Stuart: I was working for a supply chain planning software company with a broad customer base. Some demand was going up five-fold, others were seeing demand down by 80 per cent.
What was consistent was that no one could predict quite what was going to happen in their areas as we went in and out of lockdown. All were lacking a scenario planning capability. More than trying to predict the unpredictable, it’s important to be able to plan and implement scenarios quickly.
Hilary: Look at the number of restaurants that quickly turned around and said they would deliver meals. As a result, they’ve got through. The money might not have been as good, but they survived. That’s about agility and speedy response.
David: Our shops had to shut, but our mobile app andwebsite were well established and robust enough to deal with the volumes of traffic.
When sport stopped for a period of time we sourced all sorts of different action for people to bet on, obscure stuff like table tennis in Korea and Belarussian football.
We had to move very fast. If we didn’t do it, our competitors would have.