A Scottish firm has launched a new service offering online shopping and home delivery apps to help businesses survive the economic crisis.
Glasgow-based firm Connect has made its system available for local independent retailers including bars, restaurants, florists, grocers and butchers in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The tech company has already enabled the 140-year-old Rodgers Butchers in Glasgow and Clydebank to navigate the Covid-19 crisis by introducing its first home delivery service.
The Connect technology is designed for large restaurant chains, but is now being used to create bespoke apps and websites for smaller traders, with a home delivery option which can be added on.
The platform can be used anywhere in the UK, and companies can use their own staff to deliver goods safely.
With a system that means companies keep their own customers’ data, rather than hand it to a third-party company, the Connect service is designed to revolutionise the home delivery market.
Businesses pay a small licence fee for their own branded, customisable app for Apple and Android devices and their own dedicated online ordering website.
When using the bespoke app, shoppers will choose the nearest location if there is more than one store and add desired products and services to the virtual basket for checkout.
Meanwhile, businesses will receive the order at a dedicated machine which will print it out.
Connect also offers a dispatcher app which enables home deliveries, with delivery zones added by drawing onto a map and real-time tracking of the driver’s location for both the business and customer.
Tom Rodgers, owner of Rodgers Butchers in Glasgow and Clydebank, has used the Connect service to introduce an online store with home deliveries of meat packs available.
Established in 1880, Rodgers Butchers was founded by James Rodgers and the family-run supplier is now in its fifth generation. The firm supplies two hospitals and a number of care homes.
Mr Rodgers said: “Like many independent businesses, the coronavirus pandemic has required us to change the way we work.
“Using Connect we have created our first online store to sell meat packs, enabling us to use our own staff to deliver products to customers’ homes.
“It is not going to be business-as-usual for some time to come, so ideas like this which can help traders continue to operate will have a positive impact for the economy.”
Connect is a collaboration between Stuart Stott, managing director of the Glasgow-based Galactic Media Group, David Harper, founder of the national Go-Centric contact centre, and Mike Callachan, managing director of Dundee-based MTC Media.
Mr Stott said: “The coronavirus outbreak has been devastating for businesses across Scotland and the UK.
“The Connect platform is designed to revolutionise the home delivery market to bring this service to small and independent stores, to help them survive the Covid-19 crisis and ensure thousands of jobs can be saved.
“With bespoke apps using the Connect technology, businesses can create their own online stores and home delivery service, while keeping full ownership of their customers’ data.
“Small retailers are at the heart of their communities, and we want to help them to continue serving their customers safely while following the government’s guidelines.”
David Harper, founder of Go-Centric, said: “Technology will play a huge role in helping businesses survive and recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Connect platform will help ensure that local independent traders, many of which have been trading for decades, can thrive for years to come.
“We’re delighted to be part of this innovation and play our part in helping companies navigate through this period of economic turmoil.”
Online sales doubled last month but failed to offset the “catastrophic” loss of sales caused by the coronavirus lockdown, according to new data.
April’s BDO monthly high street sales tracker revealed that total like-for-like sales – across both stores and online operations – plummeted 29.6% against the same month last year.
High street stores across the UK shut their doors in March after the Government told non-essential retailers to stop trading as part of the lockdown to fight the pandemic.
Closures dragged total sales down, despite a 109.6% jump in online retail sales for the month – the highest increase on record.
All areas of the retail sector saw significant declines, with like-for-like lifestyle sales sliding by 40.1% for the month.
Meanwhile, fashion sales plunged 31.4% in April and homeware sales sank by 23.9% year-on-year.
Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “Consumer behaviour has changed drastically during lockdown with a major acceleration in the shift from store to online.
“But even when restrictions ease and the high street reopens, it seems likely that this will have a lasting impact on consumer behaviour.
“Faced with a drop in consumer confidence, worsening job security and lower spending in the economy, retailers will have to adapt their business models and strategies for the ‘new norm’.”
Retailers have sought to preserve cash during the lockdown, with many securing new loans or financing arrangements, with some securing cost-reductions through Government financial support schemes.
Ms Michael added: “With such a significant amount of spend removed, retailers will be focusing on preserving cash, engaging their customers through online channels and building operational efficiency.
“While the Government has offered unprecedented short-term support, retailers need visibility and certainty of aid beyond June in order to plan for the longer term and re-build confidence among consumers.”
Thousands of jobs and £900 million will be lost in the live music industry if “urgent” action is not taken by the Government, according to a trade body for the sector.
The UK Live Music Group also warned that 550 grassroots music venues, which is 82% of the total, are at immediate risk of closure because of the pandemic.
The body claimed that it could take up to three or four years for the sector to recover to 2019 levels.
Additionally, a survey by the Association of Independent Festivals found that 92% of its members face collapse, with three-quarters of the industry’s workforce currently furloughed.
The UK Live Music Group is calling for the Government to help the industry through ongoing support measures, tax breaks on ticket sales and clear guidance about when venues can reopen.
The live music sector is set to see its contribution to the economy shrink by £900 million this year, down from its expected total of £1.1 billion, according to the UK Live Music Group.
Tom Watson, former Labour Party deputy leader and chair of UK Music – which works with the UK Live Music Group, said that the industry is “really hurting”.
He added: “Parts of the sector are effectively on life support and will need a sustained package of help from the Government to survive.
“The music industry has joined forces and is doing its best to look after its people through a fantastic network of hardship funds.
“As the world slowly emerges from the international lockdown, the UK cannot afford to leave behind its economy-boosting music industry.
“We’ll need more support from Government to survive and remain a long-term contributor to the economy.
“If we are to nurture the next generation of British stars like Adele, Stormzy and Ed Sheeran, we need the Government to listen and act to ensure our music industry remains the envy of the world.”
The UK Live Music Group is a trade body which was formed by organisations in the industry to represent their views.
The body is also calling for an extension of business rate relief for the entire supply chain for live music events, including sound and lighting suppliers and service companies.
The group is also arguing for financial support for landlords so that they can allow grassroots music venue tenants to have rent-free periods.
Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association and artistic and commercial director of the Royal Albert Hall, said: “The Government must not abandon the music industry which is such a vital part of our economy, culture and social fabric.
“The support for our world-leading industry must continue until we have a chance to get back on our feet.”
Music venues are entitled to Government support such as the furlough scheme and loans.
A Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport spokeswoman said: “We are supporting the UK’s world-class music industry in these challenging times through substantial financial measures such as Coronavirus Job Retention and Self-Employed Income Support Schemes, as well as business rates relief for music venues and the Bounce Back loan scheme.
“We will continue to work together with the sector on plans for recovery so that the UK’s music scene can thrive in the future.”