At Fosdick, we were fortunate to have been considered an essential, non-medical business at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With many newly adopted safety and preventative measures in place, our operations have continued mostly as usual. On the job, we are all prioritizing social distancing recommendations, and our PPE has become a standard accessory to our work wardrobes. Beyond this, we’ve erected barriers between employees on production lines, increased our daily sanitization standards, and added periodic deep cleanings of our warehouses.
Needless to say, our Wallingford, CT headquarters and warehouse locations on both coasts look very different today than they did at the start of 2020.
Though we are grateful to have continued service, the past six months have not been without some considerable challenges, especially for our employees.
PPE masks have been a requirement for Fosdick staff since the first reports of the virus. When disposable masks became too difficult to acquire due to widespread inventory shortages, we were able to issue each employee a washable mask. The new masks were designed and handmade locally by an employee’s spouse, to whom we are extremely thankful.
While PPE is a logical, fundamental measure in preventing the spread of the virus at work, the masks have done little to prevent the spread of fear. By the first week in April, we were already experiencing staffing issues at facilities on both coasts, as well as with temporary staffing partners.
Issues related to staffing have persisted in waves throughout the shut down period. There are many reasons for this. Some employees are simply scared, others are sick or have been exposed to the virus, and on the week ending 4/18, a permanent Fosdick employee passed away as a result of COVID-19.
Our concern for the health and well-being of our employees, coupled with company-wide mourning, is exacerbated by massive increases in Q4 order volume. It is no secret that the quarantine period, which is an appropriate response to the pandemic, is largely responsible for the surge in online sales for companies like those with whom we partner for logistics and fulfillment.
The irony for essential businesses like ours is that in order to do our jobs well and fulfill orders for the millions of Americans doing the right thing by sheltering in place, we need to put ourselves and our employees in a vulnerable position. We are extremely grateful to this core of our workforce, who are truly on the front lines. Fosdick has continued to prioritize their safety, introducing new measures to reduce exposure at our facilities like those mentioned above. These initiatives have allowed staff to continue providing for their families, and as more permanent employees begin to return to work, we believe the worst of it is behind us.
All of this amounts to the fact that there are some significant challenges for 3PLs and any supply chain service company. It is easy to focus on the hard parts of the job right now, but we are quick to remind ourselves that many small businesses do not have the luxury of operational troubleshooting. In fact, the average small business is working through a much larger problem – one that threatens the livelihoods of everyone tied to the company.
When we consider the state of the country right now, we can’t help but also feel gratitude for the government officials who foresaw the role companies like ours would play during this period of social distancing. The necessary restrictions in essential brick and mortar stores have encouraged consumers to utilize eCommerce solutions for items that before were regular place holders on weekly grocery lists. Third-party logistics companies like Fosdick have played a vital role in supplying the nation with needed supplies during this crisis.
Then there are the companies whose products, while not literally necessary, have proven to be EXTREMELY valuable in creating a general sense of normalcy for folks stuck at home.
We’re not talking about the top 5 items in everyone’s online shopping carts:
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer
- Cleaning wipes
- Disinfectant spray
…or the top 10:
- Paper towel
- Hand soap
- Water filters
Though these products are not all necessities per se, they are also not the types of online purchases helping maintain sanity for folks stuck at home. If anything, much of that top ten list is a manifestation of increased anxiety around the virus and the shutdown.
So what are people spending their money on to keep their wits about them and make the best of a definitively bad situation?
In terms of eCommerce, the list can be broken up into three different categories. Research for these categories was done independently, but we also found two great resources worth looking at. Here are some of the Nielsen Data on what’s flying off the shelves broken down by NPR, and here is that same data more clearly defined week by week from CNN.
- Puzzles – According to NPR, puzzle manufacturer Ravensburger’s sales are up 370%
- Board Games – Pulse News reported that in Korea, $120 million of Hasbro shares were purchased from May 1 to 11.
- Video Gaming Consoles – Nintendo Switch (a compact handheld system was rated the best handheld video game console by Imore.com)
- Bakeware – In the six weeks ending April 25, 2020, dollar sales of hand mixers doubled, and stand mixers grew 69%. Home World Business also reported sales bumps in kitchen appliances suited to making comfort cuisine— sandwich makers, slow/multi-cookers, and air fryers.
- Yeast – By some estimates, grocery stores have seen yeast sales increase anywhere from 300 to 600% as the entire nation began sheltering in place.
- Sewing Machines – Read about a mom and pop sewing machine repair store that is thriving in Downers Grove Illinois
- Fitness Equipment – ResearchAndMarkets.com published a new article on the health and wellness industry, “Fitness Equipment Sales Grow by 170% During Coronavirus Lockdown”.
- Hair Care – Sales of hair clippers increased 166%, and hair coloring products rose 23%, from the same period a year ago, according to Nielsen. Home dye brand Madison Reed saw a 32.5% increase in website traffic from February to March alone.
- Loungewear/Comfort Bedding – We spoke with Mike Grillo, CEO of the weighted blanket brand, Gravity, who says sales are up 75% year over year so far in May.
“Brands like Gravity provide additional comfort and security during uncertain times,” says Grillo. “Products like ours have proven to be an essential part of the “stay at home” routine for many.”
But let’s not forget. Plenty of us are looking for excuses to strap on our masks and head out into the world. For many- like the employees here at Fosdick – we have to.
And so, on our way to and from the office, or at some point along our weekly odyssey to restock our fridges, we are looking for any small reminder of a life pre-shutdown to help us soldier through.
With that in mind, we’d like to take a moment to shout out the other non-medical, brick and mortar locations open daily. All of these have proven TRULY essential,
officially, as deemed by the state, but also to our general mental health and well-being or the communities in which they operate.
Here they are:
Home Improvement Stores/Lawn & Garden/Building Materials – keeping us well supplied on all the extra home projects we’ve created for ourselves during quarantine!
Grocery Stores & Pharmacies – For obvious reasons! Especially grateful for grocery store/pharmacy, one-stop shops, as well as the pharmacy locales with drive-through service.
Pet Stores/Pet Supply – Another silver lining to the #stayathome movement is all the new puppies in our lives! Someone has to keep them fed and active with new toys.
All the Pivoting Businesses
- The mom and pop, specialty stores who’ve optimized for call-in, pick-up, and delivery orders. One local meat market near us has gone from a cash-only establishment to an operation that basically equates to a drive-through window!
- Fine dining and sit down eateries operating as take out. We can all continue to regular our favorite Friday night spots with new pick up and delivery offerings at restaurants like these. Some have even revamped the menu to highlight the items that hold up best in takeout containers until they can be plated at home.
The Perennial Powerhouse Take Out Spots – With so many call out/delivery apps like Grub Hub, Door Dash, and Uber Eats, what we consider standard takeout has changed a bit. Still, Chinese and Pizza account for almost 30% of the country’s callout food, according to Eater.com.
Coffee Shops – Our K-Cups and drip pots are a poor substitute for the real deal.
Liquor Stores – or package stores as we call them in CT.
All kidding aside, these small luxuries are doing a greater service to the community than they are given credit for. And what’s more, many of these small businesses have gone to great lengths to support the first responders and hospital personnel on the front lines of the crisis.
Certainly, our admiration for nurses, doctors, and other medical staff is boundless. But during this crisis, it is important to consider other essential, non-medical workers playing a part to help us all through.
On behalf of Fosdick management, we’d like to salute our own employees at each of Fosdick’s locations who have come to work day in and day out under remarkably difficult circumstances. Each of you has played a pivotal role in keeping American households well-supplied these past few months, offering comfort at a time when it is sorely needed.
In that vein, Fosdick is proud to be a steady and reliable presence for our clients with a long track record of continued service despite difficult circumstances. For over 55 years – through floods, fires, recessions, and the current global pandemic – we have always persevered. Thanks to the efforts of our dedicated employees, Fosdick is a company built to last another half-century and beyond.