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Supply chain, inflation, cost-of-living – surviving the next challenge!

Industry veteran Mike Abrahams on supply chain challenges, inflation and the cost of living

It’s been a huge challenge for businesses to simply keep afloat, consequently finding less time to focus on creating a stronger and more successful offering.

Of course we want to be strong and successful but sometimes it’s enough to get through the difficult times – dealing with management issues or a really slow summer for example – and it’s more about getting to the end of the month than looking long-term especially when there are so many unknown variables these days.

Nevertheless, we have managed some effective changes over this period, including for example offering top quality barista coffee to go and fresh local organic fruit and veg in season. We have also managed some re-organisation of the layout and persuaded several manufacturers to provide us with branded shop signage.

After three years of management problems we at last have a good team who do their very best, many of them with a vested interest in the business. They work really hard to not only keep the business running but especially to keep our customers happy so they will return. We try to do things the right way and maintain our standards and values as well as treat everyone fairly and honestly.

The demise of Tree of Life and the rescue of The Health Store has been a huge challenge to Alicia, our office and purchasing manager, especially finding the time while short-staffed to source new suppliers and to keep our shelves looking full.

We have noticed, though, that many of the bigger supermarkets are struggling to keep their shelves full too, which is worrying on one hand but also reassuring in the sense that it is not just Wild Oats that is facing this challenge.

We experienced some disruptions with some of our major suppliers folding. But we’ve relied on our team’s wide product knowledge and experience to be able to find alternatives or contact brands directly to fix those supply chain issues. If we’ve been unable to source a product for a customer, our customers have thankfully been very understanding in receiving an alternative but similar product. We always offer the next best option which has always worked well for us.

All the marketing and merchandising changes made during the pandemic have been successful to varying degrees, so we have retained them. Most of the innovations developed have made a positive contribution to sales. Our locally roasted coffee, for example, is attracting aficionados day by day and sales are continuing to rise.

It’s soul-destroying having to continuously increase prices but we cannot reduce income which we need to increase wages and meet increasing overheads from all quarters. Instead, by juggling with margins, we have managed to sustain turnover through schemes such as:

Mike Abrahams

Long ago Mike was a test manager at the European Space Agency working on satellites, Spacelab and the Hubble Telescope. But today he is highly respected for his experience and knowledge in the wholefoods and natural products industry. He founded Wild Oats in Bristol with his wife Loes in 1981 and Chaired the NAHS for five years in the 90s.

Read the full four page article in our Winter 2022/2023 issue here.

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