Weston firm wins 500 new customers after Brexit and pingdemic

A fast-growing procurement company in Weston-super-Mare has taken on 500 new customers so far this year as a result of the “double whammy” effect of Brexit and the ‘pingdemic’ on businesses.

Regency Purchasing Group, based on Alexandra parade in the North Somerset town, sources products, services and supplies for more than 3,500 leisure and hospitality businesses throughout the UK.

It counts South West brewery and publican Butcombe Brewing and bowling chain Superbowl UK among the companies it works with, as well as hundreds of golf clubs, hotels, zoos, and family attractions.

The firm’s managing director Alex Demetriou has attributed the rise in its client base due to long-term recruitment issues within leisure and hospitality, exacerbated by EU national workers leaving the UK since the country’s exit from the bloc and staff being forced to isolate after being ‘pinged’ by the coronavirus track and trace app.

Mr Demetriou said a lack of time and money meant that businesses within the sector were “increasingly attracted” to working with buying groups such as Regency.

“The benefits have always been there in terms of the margins and the stable terms involved, such as being able to fix pricing medium-to-long term, but now the net is broader because of operational issues, which has resulted in us acquiring more than 500 new customers so far this year,” he said.

“Leisure businesses are finding they have less and less time to negotiate with and manage suppliers because they are spending more time ‘in’ the business primarily due to staff shortages caused by the ‘pingdemic’ and Brexit.

“The result is that, with events taking place outdoors, this summer will be the busiest we’ve ever had, and we are way ahead of previous years.”

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One of Regency’s new clients is the Drayton Manor theme park and hotel in Tamworth, Staffordshire, which welcomes more than a million visitors a year and was bought by European leisure parks operator Looping Group in August 2020.

The resort’s executive chef Carl Hickinbottom said: “The staffing challenges facing our industry have been unprecedented following the return from lockdown.

“You then add the additional stress of staff self-isolating and staff being pinged by the NHS app and you start to fear the worst even though you have put all the right control measures in place to protect your team and your business.”

Mr Hickinbottom said that Regency had helped the business to focus more closely on its operations by reducing the amount of time it spent on tendering and purchasing.

He added: “Not only did [Regency] help with pricing and controls, but their support and advice, both in person and via their newsletters, gave all the latest information from produce availability all the way to rules and guidance around self-isolation which helped us decide which staff members had to isolate and those who didn’t.”

Mr Demertiou conceded this winter was likely to be more of an “an unknown quantity” for Regency with uncertainty still surrounding the booking of indoor events.

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