I’ve often written about charities and retailers working in partnership, highlighting retailers’ ability to support causes and communities in a myriad of ways over and above cash donations. These include long-term strategic partnerships, cause-related marketing, employee fundraising and through providing access to their operational infrastructures, social media channels and customers as prospective supporters.
In this blog, I’m providing a round-up of how various retailers have responded to the challenge presented by Covid-19 with significant cash donations (if only these could be gift-aided!), repurposing operations, strengthening relationships with food banks, and offering special deals to NHS workers and reserved hours for vulnerable groups.
I’ll be updating this blog as other initiatives hit my radar.
Business as unusual fuels creative solutions
.@Twitter needs an "Amazing action in unprecedented times" button, that explodes a #Coronavirus when you press it.#RetailerCharityPartnerships – Tackling #Covid_19 together https://t.co/EWExPZjI3M pic.twitter.com/a5kkY81uen
— J o h n n y F i v e (@JTCHANGINGBIZ) March 21, 2020
In a novel twist of repurposing people, Morrisons is enlisting the support of 500 charity shop workers from Marie Curie and CLIC Sargent, to help frailer older people and other vulnerable customers in its stores. The supermarket will be paying their wages for 12 weeks.
Boss of Kurt Geiger shoe chain is suspending his salary for a year as shops shut temporarily. Giving NHS staff a 50% discount once stores reopen & paying all shop staff so they can volunteer time for Age Uk and other charities
— Ashley Armstrong (@AArmstrong_says) March 22, 2020
On the other shoe, Kurt Geiger is paying all shop staff so they can volunteer time for Age UK and other causes.
Focus on food banks, older people and other high-risk groups
We are proud to be a part of the communities in which we trade. B&M appreciates that many households in these communities will be facing extreme hardship due to the current crisis. As a community retailer, we would like to do our little bit to help people get through this. pic.twitter.com/rGLReo8MFG
— B&M Stores (@bmstores) March 20, 2020
Each of B&Ms’ 670 stores has been authorised to provide a local food bank with a £1,500 donation, so they can buy essential groceries, cleaning goods and toiletries. Each food bank needs to be a registered charity and one food bank per store is eligible.
M&S has made an immediate £100,000 investment in the Neighbourly Community Fund to support hundreds of local organisations, from food banks to youth clubs, as well as an additional £100,000 to the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal https://t.co/inUTgYmGVE
— neighbourly.com (@nbrly) March 23, 2020
M&S and Lidl have both given £100,000 to Neighbourly, a B Corporation which connects businesses with charities. In addition, M&S also donated £100,000 to the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal. Lidl’s worked with Neighbourly since 2017, and has already donated 5 million meals through its Feed it Back scheme. Holders of an M&S Sparks card can also make further donations each time they shop, by choosing Neighbourly as their preferred choice.
We’re donating £5 million to food charities @FareShareUK and the @TrussellTrust to help them support the most vulnerable people in our communities during the coronavirus outbreak. Find out more: https://t.co/JEN0z2jcPs pic.twitter.com/3QPbSTZuCt
— Asda (@asda) March 21, 2020
Asda is donating £5 million to food charities FareShare and The Trussell Trust to help them support the most vulnerable people. It’s also investing in the logistics and support services that will allow both charities to support families through the crisis, including funding for telephone and online referrals, and food parcel delivering systems for people unable to afford food. It addition, it’s supporting the recruitment of 20,000 volunteers for food banks in their networks.
The funding will also continue the work of the Fight Hunger Create Change partnership between Asda and the two charities, which is helping tackle the root causes of poverty by providing 800,000 people with access to debt and financial advice over the next year.
— John Lewis & Partners (@jlandpartners) March 23, 2020
John Lewis has launched a £1m Community Support Fund that will be available to communities across the UK. In addition, immediate donations of £75,000 have been given to Age UK, FareShare, the Trussell Trust, GroceryAid and RetailTrust.
In these difficult times it’s important for us all to look after the most vulnerable people in our communities. To help support those valued customers, we’re donating £250,000 to @age_uk.
— Aldi Stores UK (@AldiUK) March 17, 2020
Aldi took to Facebook and Twitter to announce that it was making a £250k donation to Age UK, as a way to support vulnerable customers in its communities. It’s also donated an extra £100,000 to long-term partner, Teenage Cancer Trust.
So proud of the Co-op, I worked as an assistant manager for them for over 10 years. Well done!!
Co-op donates £1.5m of food to hunger charity FareShare https://t.co/yCZvkqRAKg
— 𝓔𝓵𝓲𝔃𝓪𝓫𝓮𝓽𝓱 𝓛𝓲𝓵𝓵𝔂 (@ChitkwesuManetu) March 21, 2020
Co-op has pledged to donate £1.5m of food to FareShare, that will be shared amongst its regional centres across the UK.
This, from the business that is already taking on charity shop staff who would otherwise be laid off. Talk about stepping up.
Morrisons gives food banks £10m during coronavirus outbreak https://t.co/pkyKCz8KEG
— Karl Wilding (@karlwilding) March 30, 2020
On top of repurposing charity shop staff, Morrisons went a step further and announced it would be providing £10m to food banks, as well as lifting restrictions and reopening cafes as depots to encourage customers to make donations.
We're encouraging other businesses to support @age_uk in reaching its £10m target.
— Richard Walker (@icelandrichard) March 24, 2020
Iceland has donated £150k Age UK’s Coronavirus Emergency Appeal Richard Walker, managing director tweeted: “We’re encouraging other businesses to support @age_uk in reaching its £10m target.”
Our CEO, Dave Lewis, has written to customers to share the latest on our response to COVID-19 including:
➡️ A £30m package of support for communities, including £25m food donations programme
➡️ Plans to increase number of online shopping slots and prioritise vulnerable customers
— Tesco News (@tesconews) April 1, 2020
Tesco had clearly been taking its time to decide what action to take, and its CEO, Dave King, finally wrote to customers to outline a phenomenal £30 million package of support, building on the £70 million of help it delivered to causes in 2019. The letter points out that:
- We currently donate £3 million of food every month through our Community Food Connection scheme and distribution centres. On top of that, we will also provide £15 million of food donations (ambient and fresh) to FareShare and the Trussell Trust over the next 12 weeks – food they need for distribution to community groups and food banks. In addition, we’ll donate £1m between the two organisations to support their continuing operations
- We will focus £2m of funding from our Bags of Help community donation scheme to charities that are helping the most vulnerable
- Building on our existing partnership with the British Red Cross, we are donating £2m to help them with the extra costs they face in supporting people in need
- Our stores have access to over £1m of funding so they can support causes in their local neighbourhood
Soliciting supermarket support through social media
SUPERMARKETS @Morrisons @waitrose @Tesco @sainsburys @AldiUK @LidlGB PLEASE can you make sure PEOPLE LIVING WITH DEMENTIA are on your vulnerable shoppers lists for delivery. Many are struggling. @alzheimerssoc pic.twitter.com/QuHUYtKfaI
— Kate Lee (@KateLeeCEO) March 30, 2020
Keen to ensure supermarkets catered for the needs of specific vulnerable groups, Kate Lee, incoming CEO at Alzheimer’s Society, tweeted the main grocers to remind them that people with dementia needed their support, as many were struggling.
There is help for smaller, local groups
.@sccoalition all @NisaRetail stores across the U.K. have a charity fund to support small, local charities. Retailers are busier than ever at present so don’t have time to hunt for them – but if small charities popped in to ask, success rate is usually good 👍
— Kate Carroll (@katercarroll) March 28, 2020
Whilst the focus of support from retailers is on helping larger, national causes, Kate Carroll, head of Nisa’s charity MADL, took to Twitter to remind smaller, local charities, of its long-running scheme. Its funds are partly generated from a percentage of sales of own-label, and, more recently, Co-op label products.
As nipping to a Nisa might be more preferable to venturing out to out-of-town mega-stores during the national lock-down, one would expect funds raised through such purchases to increase. On the downside, as people dash from cash due to hygiene concerns, I’d expect income generated by its lovely new collecting tins to fall.
Corner shops against Coronavirus
Asiyah and Jawad Javed, owners of a small shop in Scotland, spent £2,000 on masks and alcohol gel, and are giving them away free to older people
— Dr. Seema Yasmin (@DoctorYasmin) March 14, 2020
Perhaps the most touching retail tale surrounding this pandemic is the story of Asiyah and Jawad Javed, owners of a small corner shop in Stenhousemuir. They put together 500 bags containing face-masks, antibacterial hand gel and cleaning wipes, and gave them away for free to people over age of 65.
“On Saturday I was out, and I met an old woman, she was crying because she had been to the supermarket and there was no hand wash,” Ms Javed said.
Dedicated shopping hours – nice idea, but there’s a downside
Not good: Sainsbury's dedicated shopping hour for vulnerable people 'chaotic and crowded' https://t.co/azg5yaAvu7
— Rebecca Smithers (@RebeccaSmithers) March 19, 2020
Sainsbury’s is among many retailers that have launched reserved shopping slots for people at high risk and NHS workers, though some reports suggest early bird shoppers have been met by empty shelves and crowded aisles, due to replenishment failings and stock-pilers. Whilst I commend the sentiment behind such moves, many vulnerable people have been advised to stay at home for 12 weeks, meaning friends, neighbours and volunteer groups will ultimately need to help and organise their shopping for them.
Pennies makes an online plea
At this critical time, we're committed to making Pennies even easier to implement online. We believe #microdonations matter, now more than ever.
Charities / businesses – if you need our support at this time, please get in touch.
Our full message here ⬇️https://t.co/WntfC0OA6P
— Pennies (@pennies_orguk) March 25, 2020
Mindful of the national lock-down forcing many retailers to focus operations online in response to coronavirus, Pennies, “the digital upgrade of the traditional charity box”, has sprung into action. It’s asking retailers to add Pennies to their checkout, thus giving customers the option to add a few pennies to their online purchase for charity. It suggests that companies might want to consider choosing to support funds set up in direct response to the virus, like the Coronavirus Appeal run by the National Emergencies Trust and British Red Cross
Government helps supermarkets target deliveries to vulnerable shoppers
Government helps supermarkets target deliveries for elderly https://t.co/1cubCE7lM2
— Sarah Butler (@whatbutlersaw) March 25, 2020
“Supermarkets are being given access to a government database to help prioritise food deliveries for elderly and vulnerable shoppers who have been ordered to stay at home under the government’s coronavirus crackdown, wrote Sarah Butler, a journalist at The Guardian specialising in retail and ethical business.
“With all the major grocers’ online delivery slots booked up weeks in advance, getting food to those self-isolating was top priority in a call between industry bosses and the environment secretary, George Eustice, on Tuesday.”, she continued.
When online goes off the rails
Trying to get supermarket home delivery? Morrisons 'no slots available', Tesco 'no slots available', Sainsbury's rightly prioritising elderly, vulnerable, disabled customers but no click & collect slots available. Ocado 'you are in virtual queue position 8733' 4 hour wait
— Susanna Reid (@susannareid100) March 25, 2020
Even before the Government announced stricter social distancing measures, online delivery had the opportunity to help save the day and reduce the need for people to go out. However, I am sure many looking to stuff their bunkers soon lost patience at being 8733rd in the queue and dashed out to see what they could get at their nearest bricks and mortar stores. Problem is, as well as CSR heroes, as more and more people were forced to visit the supermarkets, the ensuing chaos may cause them to become super-spreaders. Only time will tell.
We’ve always been proud supporters of food charities, but they need our help more than ever now. That’s why Ocado and the Ocado Foundation have donated an extra £750,000 to food charities this week. This £750,000 has been donated in the following ways. pic.twitter.com/eWWHCow8jP
— ocado (@Ocado) March 29, 2020
Still, despite struggling to meet unprecedented online demand, Ocado and the Ocado Foundation did their bit, announcing how they’d deliver £750k of funding to food charities.
Get social purpose right, or social media will shape it for you
Of course, people expect retailers to act responsibly, even at the best of times, and soon call them out on social media if they’re caught behaving badly.
When this is over I hope we have a mass boycott of Sports Direct.
— Samanthab1970 (@virgosam70) March 25, 2020
I am begging my beloved @Waterstones to do the right thing and close. Every single person who comes in is endangering others, including your own staff. In a few days you will have no option but to close. Meantime, do the right thing. You’re better than Wetherspoons. https://t.co/zSBY1ilShz
— Adam Kay (@amateuradam) March 22, 2020
Come on @Waterstones – now's not the time to become a dick.
If Oxfam can close its shops and sell online, so can you.
You are better than this. https://t.co/h65YIXQ4bL
— J o h n n y F i v e (@JTCHANGINGBIZ) March 22, 2020
But customers must act responsibly too
Though this crisis has brought out the best in many people, a focus on self-preservation has come to the fore for some. Scenes at many stores of people grappling over toilet paper and pasta reminded me of tyrannical seagulls dive-bombing for chips on Torquay’s pier.
#StopHoarding #stopstockpiling #StopPanicBuying
My friend has a 3 year old son who is autistic.
She phoned me in tears because she can’t get any pasta which is virtually all he will eat.
To those of you with 50 bags of pasta in your cupboards.
I hope you’re feeling proud! pic.twitter.com/ZEgAr1kFIG
— 🏴Wendy Smith met Matt🏴 (@BabyDragon5067) March 20, 2020
— Portmanteau at Home (@SadlyCatless) March 23, 2020
So do put that extra bog roll down, won’t you? We have everything to loos.
John Thompson is a fundraising consultant at Changing Business
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