'Keep calm and carry on': 169-year-old Dike & Son supermarket going strong

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The 169-year-old family-owned Dike & Son supermarket in Stallbridge in the South of England, has seen an increase in orders because of what it says is "a blend of old-fashioned personal service and online technology."

The fifth-generation grocer, which sells a wide variety of food staples including a huge lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, has managed to maintain a steady stream of business while keeping all of 75 colleagues on staff during the coronavirus pandemic, 

“Like many enterprises, we’ve had to adapt in double-quick time to these extraordinary circumstances," says Andy Dike. "My team have been absolutely superb and I’m incredibly proud of the way they have pulled together.

“On the technology side of things, our website is receiving record traffic, with online shopping orders for home delivery in our vans and the increasingly popular click-and-collect option. For the first four months of 2020 we have beaten the yearly totals for every year since we started internet shopping back in May 2015."

The business, located on Ring Street in the Dorset area west of Shaftesbury, has traded through some of the biggest upheavals in modern British history, including two world wars, a series of recessions and, now, the national emergency.

According to the grocer, six staff are on door rota at the store, with a one-in, one-out policy and hygiene gel stations. Trolley and wire basket handles are wiped down before each use. In line with government guidelines, Dike’s shut its cafe; staff were given work at the grocery store instead. Though many prefer to order online, others are still visiting.

“Whilst the internet has been incredibly convenient for many customers, who can choose from 10,000 products listed on our internet shop, some of our older customers prefer the personal touch," Dike says. “They ring in their delivery order by phone, get people to drop their shopping lists into us or send over what they want via an old-fashioned fax. 

“We’re also seeing a surge in orders for pre-selected grocery boxes, full of staples and fresh food and milk, because some customers simply don’t want to make decisions on food and drink items.”

Dike & Son has worked hard to maintain strong safety measures.

“It is clear to many of us that customers, particular the middle aged and older, are appreciative of the rigorous public health measures we implemented very early on – it gives them peace of mind,” Dike says.

And the lines outside haven't been an issue.

“At the entrance, while customers wait, you get to a chance to talk for the first time and we’ve met so many wonderful people in all of this. It feels like the 1950s,” Dike says. “The policy also means staff can top up shelves without compromising social distancing measures.

“I’m so proud of the team. Yes, there were tears to start off with, because of all the challenges which come with virus transmission prevention, but we’re still smiling despite everything. It’s that wartime spirit – keep calm and carry on.”

According to industry figures, 88% of all businesses in the UK are family owned – a staggering 4.8 million in total. James Robinson, a partner at Poole-based PFK Francis Clark and a business advisor, says the contribution to the economy should never be underestimated, given that family firms pay £149 billion in tax each year, which is around 21% of government revenues.

““Family businesses are at the heart of our economy and communities – Dike & Son stands testament to that," Robinson says. "Andy and his staff have risen to the operational challenges presented on a daily basis by the national emergency – they’ve swiftly adapted, changing working practices to seamlessly meet the online and traditional needs of customers in the digital and physical world.”

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