Every company has faced large challenges during the pandemic, not least the logistical challenges of retrospectively instantly creating correct and safe socially distanced working environments and procedures.
Sales staff have been on furlough, and the majority of retail customers closed completely or taking on the challenge of expanding or setting up online selling operations. There is a general feeling of anxiety and caution throughout the country, with most people staying close to home.
The Mint Group, a family owned business based in Corby, and comprising M!NT Publishing, Real and Exciting Designs, and Museums & Galleries Ltd, has managed to remain open for orders throughout the pandemic via its separate company websites. As with all UK businesses, sales were difficult in April but nevertheless the company can report some healthy and consistent orders from retailers not immediately exposed to the lockdown, primarily greengrocers, chemists, and post offices. As a company there was a strong desire to support its retail customers in any way needed in these times, especially as its core products – greeting cards – positively help connect people and sending cards to loved ones and friends is a great way to put a smile on someone’s face.
The Mint Group took the decision to furlough most staff as this was felt to be the best way to safeguard staff against the virus and to keep in line with Government advice. A skeleton crew led by the family proprietors – Alan and Debbie Williams, Tom Williams and Sophie Bylina – kept the core operations of the company going and packed and picked all internet, email or phone orders received. Adding to the complications, the Group is planning to move its warehousing and fulfillment to larger premises this spring. Tom Williams, General Manager, says of the challenges: “It has been a difficult and challenging time for everyone, and we are all having to get used to a new way of living and working. Several measures have been put in place at our premises to ensure social distancing is maintained. We have hand sanitiser stations, 2m distancing signs and staff have temperature checks. We have to protect each other through this. Since the government has announced steps towards easing the lockdown, staff are being recalled from furlough in stages, with some Corby staff returning this week.
Museums & Galleries’ studio, based in Frome, has kept working throughout the lockdown, albeit with all the designers working from home. Art departments generally work to annual marketing and production cycles, the team is working towards 2021 releases. Ben Dorney, creative director, says: “Thanks to our own amazing team and the invaluable support of license partners and retail clients, the M&G studio has been able to stay open (remotely) and develop projects throughout the lockdown. Many of these projects are for planned future release in our own range. Others are for retail customers readying for a much-needed bounce-back when we return to the ‘new normal’. It’s been a very strange and difficult time for everyone; the silver lining is realising how adaptable and resilient we can be when we pull together.