The grim reality of the pandemic on Scotland’s bakery sector

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

A Scottish Bakers survey reveals the outlook for the Scottish bakery sector and its employees is bleak. Pic: GettyImages/Oleksandra Polishchuk
A Scottish Bakers survey reveals the outlook for the Scottish bakery sector and its employees is bleak. Pic: GettyImages/Oleksandra Polishchuk

Related tags: Scottish Bakers, Bakery industry, hospitality, food to go, Convenience foods, High street, coronavirus

Scottish Bakers is calling on government for additional support after a survey conducted amongst its members last month revealed the harsh impact of coronavirus.

Scottish Bakers members are made up of hundred of high street bakeries and cafes, as well as wholesalers supplying the hospitality sector along with schools, hospitals and works canteens. Collectively, the members employ more than 12,000 workers across Scotland.

The association said that despite working hard to introduce new ways to adapt to the tough rules introduced over the past year to limit the spread of coronavirus, the sector has been hard hit.

Its latest survey – conducted late February – has revealed the majority of its members reported a significant drop in sales.

Two thirds of the bakery businesses that supply the hospitality sector said sales have dropped by at least 50% compared to the same period before the pandemic.

Nearly half of the high street bakeries reported similar falls in sales or are operating at a loss.

While 75% of the cafes operated by bakers are currently closed, a third fear they may never open again. As many of one in 10 bakery businesses have already closed and almost half have been compelled to make staff redundancies.

More closed their shops because of the additional measures imposed on food-to-go premises in Scotland in January. This is only adding pressure to businesses already struggling to stay afloat and unless trading improves soon the outlook for the sector and its employees is bleak.

More targeted support

With restrictions set to be lifted on certain non-essential retail on 5 April, the association is asking the Scottish Government for similar easing of restrictions on food-to-go operations.

Although the support measures provided to businesses during the pandemic – in particular, the furlough scheme taken up by 90% of firms – have been very welcomed, with trading conditions as poor as they, Scottish Bakers is now calling for more targeted support.

It is asking the government to provide rates relief for wholesale manufacturers to keep their premises open and employees in work.

It is also requesting access to grants for firms dependent on supplying the hospitality sector from the Scottish Wholesale Food and Drink Resilience Fund already available to other food suppliers.

Additionally, Scottish Bakers wants grants for high street businesses to cope with reduced footfall and turnover, similar to that already available to hospitality businesses.

And finally, it would like a rapid easing of takeaway restrictions in line with the general fall in infection rates and increased numbers vaccinated in the population as a whole.

“I am extremely proud of how resilient, creative and hardworking our members have been through well over a year now,”​ said Alasdair Smith, CEO of Scottish Bakers.

“We have baked freshly every day ensuring the communities we serve have access to fine fresh produce and we have seen our members support their local areas with home delivery, click and collect, the addition of basic groceries to their ranges. But to see the impact on the sector as a whole laid so bare is hard to read.

“I know our members will work hard and will pull through but it is vital that the Government hear our voice and help support us as we have supported them through this crisis by keeping the nation fed. We look forward to seeing some of the policy measures we have outlined come to fruition and to helping our members to not just survive but to thrive.”

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