British businesses show value during tough times

Our commercial businesses can continue to show the value they have as many in the sector look for a timely boost.

As a commercial insurer, NFU Mutual will continue to champion our British businesses and ask consumers to back our retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers.

Since the pandemic struck in 2020, organisations have been grappling with recovering from lockdown, trying to get footfall and custom back on the rise and, more recently, negotiating the challenges of price increases and the cost-of-living crisis.

Across manufacturing, wholesale and retail, some have struggled more than others, but many will be hoping to see signs of an uplift in the economy, with certain businesses taking measures to try and support and bring back customers.

For Stax Trade Centres, a leading non-food wholesaler catering to independent retailers and tradespeople, operating successfully in the past few years has meant supporting their customers during tricky times. Significant price reductions have been introduced for customers in a bid to support the growth and success of the industry.

David Hibbert has been Joint Managing Director since buying the business in 1986 and has seen plenty of change.

Expanding from one site to six in Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh, the 67-year-old helped grow the business in challenging times along the way. He is confident the sector can come out of the current slump stronger and urged everyone to lend support where they can.

“Every year has been difficult for the last few years,” said David. “But we are finding those who moved away from wholesalers are now looking to move back and people are starting to appreciate it’s an important time to use and support British business.

“There is demand coming back for wholesalers and more hope than there has been for a while – it’s about making sure we give the customers what they want. I would urge any retailer who gets things delivered to take a trip to your cash and carry, have a look and see what’s new.”

While the latest media figures paint a picture of a slump in sales, ONS data* also shows there has been a year-on-year drop of thousands of employees in the wholesale and retail trade sector.

It’s quite the opposite story for the Leamington Spa-based furniture company Vitsœ. Managing Director, Mark Adams, who has been with the business since the age of 24 and will celebrate 40 years with them next year, works with more than 80 colleagues for a company that is globally-renowned.

Mark has seen a lot over the years – notably following the 2008/09 financial crisis – but vowed at the time things wouldn’t repeat themselves down the line.

“In April 2009 we had to make redundancies – as our business was then only 20% export – which was very difficult and I didn’t want to do that again,” he said. “During the Covid years our business grew 50% because we were by then exporting 75% of our sales directly to customers in 90 countries. Also we were able to keep our local West Midlands supply chain running throughout.

“It’s now a more challenging market but it is absolutely vital we are able to continue to make the highest quality to sell around the world. We inspire great loyalty among our customers and the furniture we make lasts for generations.

“It is so important that we have that long-term thinking available.”

Greg Wheatley, Corporate Agent at NFU Mutual Central South Warwickshire and Pershore, said: “Our retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers play such a crucial role in life and the economy and have been through a particularly challenging time.

“It is so pleasing to see both David and Mark confident in the ability of their businesses – and others – to come through this in a stronger position. We have seen many examples of these British businesses demonstrating their value to their customers and communities.

“But it’s also about consumers supporting businesses, so we would urge people to champion the companies in their local area, where possible.

“As a commercial insurer with Agency offices in communities across the country, NFU Mutual know how important it is that consumers’ confidence in British businesses remains high, and here at NFU Mutual Central-South Warwickshire & Pershore agency we’re committed to supporting them as much as we can where possible.

“Now is the time, more than ever, for the sector to continue to show their value as we move forward.”

You can visit our Business Insurance page to find out more about NFU Mutual’s services. If you would like to discuss your current or future insurance requirements in complete confidence please contact us.