Meet the Shropshire supermarket workers going above and beyond during crisis
These are some of the team from an independent supermarket who have been working hard to help customers get everything they need despite the Covid-19 crisis.
Tuffins Supermarket, in Craven Arms, is the largest independently-owned supermarket in Shropshire – and since coronavirus hit, its staff and management have pulled together to make sure it can still provide people with access to food and essential items.
Commercial director Harry Delves said: “Since the crisis hit everything has turned on its head and we have of course gone from being able to welcome as many people who wish to enter the store at one time to having to be more strict.
“Above all we have had to look after the health of customers and staff, and the process has come with challenges.”
Since coronavirus hit, a number of changes have been made at Tuffins for the benefit of customer and staff safety.
“We have had to ensure social distancing is adhered to in store, and ensure separation between customers,” said Mr Delves.
“We have been trying to encourage one nominated customer per household to visit us as this makes things safer for customers and staff. We have also been encouraging people to pay contactless where possible and have set up sanitiser stations in store.”
“Trolleys and tills are being cleaned regularly and staff are wearing gloves. They are also being given the option to wear masks and visors in store if they need to. In general, the public are listening and abiding by the new guidelines. We are a safe place to shop and are pleased to be looking after the community.”
In a move to support the vulnerable of the area, Tuffins has been offering a home delivery service designed to help those in self-isolation.
“We are trying our best to be available to as many people as possible,” added Mr Delves.
“A lot of our customers were in the self-isolation bracket, so we started to offer a free delivery service to vulnerable people within 10 miles of the store.
By joining forces with volunteer groups in the area, the Tuffins delivery service has been able to reach a large number of homes since the crisis began.
“We have linked up with village volunteer hubs and have been delivering to about 400 households a week since the crisis started,” Mr Delves said.
A number of the Tuffins team have seen their roles change and have taken on new responsibilities during the pandemic.
Services manager Mandy Lewis said: “A big part of my role has now been making sure our staff and customers are safe by implementing the new social distancing measures in store.
“It’s been a real change as you have to monitor safety on a daily basis. You are looking after staff and customer welfare.”
Mandy said that managing social distancing in the store has not come without its challenges, though the public have been respectful. She said: “It can be difficult to ensure distancing as people are of course used to being able to wander around without worry, and we have been implementing a two-metre distance rule.
“We have set up floor signage and have increased security on the door to regulate how many people enter the store at one time.
“It’s taken people a while to get used to it, but they have been grateful for what we are doing to let them shop in a safe environment and have helped by sticking to the rules. Many have also reduced their visits to only come in for essentials.”
In general, Mandy is pleased to be part of a team working hard to help the community, and praised her employers for the support they have shown to their staff.
“I think our home deliveries have made a big impact on those in town and in the countryside. It’s one of those type of things that helps bring the community together at a time like this.
“Our staff have been amazing – coming in to work and doing what they can in an awkward situation. What the staff have achieved during this time has been great and the Delves family have been very supportive.”
Shop assistant Kelly Burton has embraced all of the new safety measures at Tuffins, and has continued to work hard at the store despite being a mother of two young children.
“We’ve all been doing regular hand cleaning, sanitising equipment after using it, and keeping a safe distance from customers,” she said. “We’ve also got screens set up on the checkouts. We’re taking it very seriously. I have two young children so I’ve been protecting myself and also been protecting them by changing as soon as I get home.”
Kelly said that change to the normal level of customers had felt odd, but she was proud to be contributing to the team at this time and had received great managerial support. “We haven’t been seeing as many locals as normal around the store so it’s been very strange,” she added. “But everyone has pulled together. The management have been amazing and I’ve had great support, particularly when needing to change my hours to work around the children.”
Among those whose roles have changed dramatically is Sarah Page.
Normally an assistant manager at Tuffins’ in-store branch of Subway, with the sandwich bar closed Sarah has taken on duties putting orders together for the supermarket’s home delivery service.
“My role at the moment has basically involved providing a personal shopping service,” she said. “Groups will send in orders for elderly people who are self-isolating, I help put them together and then they are delivered out. It’s been lovely to be able to help these people who can’t get out – a really nice feeling.”
Once orders are put together, they are delivered by a team of drivers.
Local builder Jay Few lost income when he was unable to work after Covid-19 restrictions were introduced.
However, he has since joined the Tuffins delivery team and is pleased to be helping vulnerable people get the supplies they need.
“When I got laid off from one of the building sites I was working at, I went to Tuffins as I’d heard they were doing deliveries,” he said. “I spoke to Harry Delves and got myself signed up.
“My role has involved me delivering items picked the previous day direct to peoples homes. I’ve also been doing ‘community drops’ to village halls and similar locations, doing 20 or so deliveries to one spot.”
During deliveries, Jay is careful to maintain safety at all times.
“I unload what people have ordered, ring the doorbell and step back, maintaining social distancing,” he said.
“Occasionally I will have to lift items inside for disabled people, but I always make sure safe distancing is maintained.”
Despite Tuffins’ delivery service having to be set up quickly, Jay said it has experienced minimal issues and has been well received.
“There were naturally a few teething problems with the delivery service as it had to be rolled out very quickly, but it has worked really well,” he said. “The community seem to really appreciate what we are doing, and that’s been a big motivator.”
Back in the store, customer service assistant Ant Walden has been working to ensure the needs of visiting customers are fulfilled.
“I’ve been very ‘hands on deck’, keeping shelves stocked for customers and working on the tills,” he said. “You have to pull together as a team and we have – it’s been brilliant.
“I’ve tried to do all I can to help. Things have been hectic, but we’ve pulled together really well. The management have been fantastic and supported all of the staff. No-one has ever been made to do anything they are uncomfortable with, and I can’t speak any more highly of them.”
Acknowledging the commitment of his staff, Mr Delves praised the good work his team has been doing under difficult and testing circumstances, commending the effort staff have made as key workers during a crisis that has affected everyone.
“Our staff have been placed in a difficult position but have been doing a great job,” he said. “They have kept going and should be commended for what they’ve done.”