Businesses small and large are feeling the impact of COVID-19, with many companies needing to diversify their offering to be able to stay open. One such business is independent, family-run greengrocers, Bonners, which has been based out of the historic Oxford Covered Market for the last 70 years.
“We are a retail and wholesale business, but our wholesale arm shut down overnight with the closure of hotels, restaurants and colleges. We had to think on our feet to ensure we could remain open and also still support our retail customers,” said Verity Piggott who is co-owner of Bonners with her husband, and owner Gordon.
Bonners provides locally sourced fruit and veg produce to the people of Oxfordshire and is focused on minimising food mileage and providing the freshest produce to its customers.
“The farms we work with are only about seven miles from our stall and that is really important to us. People still want to support local and independent businesses right now and often find that its companies like ours which can still support them. Overnight our request for delivery orders increase in the region of 300 a day. People were calling and emailing to say they had nothing and were on their own. We really wanted to help everyone, but didn’t have the vehicles necessary to be able to meet the delivery demand,” Verity said.
With so many orders being placed, Bonners needed to enhance its delivery options…and fast. With the immediate need for a refrigerated van, to ensure its produce remained fresh during delivery, Bonners turned to Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle Dealer, Rygor Commercials.
“Rygor is our local Mercedes-Benz Vans dealer, who we have had a long relationship with. I got in touch with them via their online chat function on their website. I couldn’t believe I had a reply from them in seconds and then a call from John in their sales team within minutes. Within two hours, we had received a quote for a Sprinter refrigerated van, on finance and we had placed the order. I don’t think we have ever made such a quick decision, but John and the team were so helpful and understood our needs. By the next day, the van was with us. A turnaround of 24hours is unbelievable and was so important to help us carry on our work and keep the business moving,” Verity added.
Not only is Bonners going the extra mile to get their produce out to all their customers and especially the elderly and vulnerable, the team has brought the Oxford Covered Market family together in such challenging times.
“The Covered Market in Oxford is iconic. It’s historic with an amazing range of food produce. We are a close-knit community here, many of us have known each other for years. Together we offer many products which people need right now, so I thought it made sense to allow customers to place their orders with us, for not just our produce, but meat from M Fellers Butchers, cheese from the Oxford Cheese Company, coffee from the Missing Bean, bread from the Natural Bread Company, drinks from Teardrop and The Cocktail Service, and flowers from The Garden Oxford. We then deliver out all the customer’s purchases in one van, which is not only convenient for the customer, but great for our businesses too – it’s about supporting each other right now.”
“We were conscious that there are lots of local people who could really do with a delivery of fresh fruit and vegetables to their door, especially during the current health pandemic. However, with the majority of food ordering for home delivery being online, we have found that many elderly and vulnerable people struggle to place orders. We wanted to make it as easy as possible, so as well as our online ordering system, we are taking orders over the phone,” Verity added.
John Lloyd, Rygor van sales manager, said: “We know these are challenging times for many businesses across the UK, so as a team we continue to go out of our way to help our customers keep their businesses moving forwards. It is incredibly important that those of us who can, stay home, but we know that there are businesses and critical workers needing to be on the road and continuing to provide their essential services. It is brilliant to see a company like Bonners adapting and enhancing the way they work to help support the most vulnerable. At Rygor, we are also adapting the way we work, so we can continue to support our customers, whilst prioritising health and wellbeing. Our aftersales departments remain open to maintain vehicles, including those of key workers, whilst our sales team continues to support our customers through digital channels, offering contactless test drives and utilising our great stock vehicle options for quick turnaround where required.”