A message from Sarah Evans, Chairman
Our temporary closure is the first time in the 146-year history of The Society that we have stopped taking orders. Not even during the World Wars did we have to pause operations. But so serious is the current threat to the health of our staff, their families, our members and by extension the NHS that we were clear that this was the responsible step to take.
Orders and deliveries remain suspended and we are not taking applications for membership or new subscriptions to our Wine Without Fuss and Vintage Cellar Plan schemes. Our Tastings & Events programme remains cancelled until the end of June and our Cellar Showroom in Stevenage is closed until further notice. We are keeping our FAQs section up to date and a smaller home-based Member Services team is in place. During this time we also hope that members and non-members can continue to enjoy our online 'Discovery' content, share our love of wine and spend time together on our Community pages.
The message from the Government has varied a little and online businesses can stay open. But 'can stay open' is not the same as 'must stay open' and surely, for non-essential services it really means 'can stay open if the working environment and way of working allows your staff to stay safe.' At the first announcement of 'lockdown' on 23rd March, it was immediately evident to us that, without some significant changes to the way we work, our warehouse teams could not work in a safe way.
Pausing for a time with a temporary closure of our operations has allowed our CEO Steve Finlan and his team time to assess our warehouse systems, layout and processes, and to identify comprehensive changes which will create an environment where we can be fully confident about safety. Our operation is largely manual and involves thousands of people movements each day, which adds huge complexity.
I am pleased to say that the changes needed to the way we work are nearing completion and Steve hopes to be in touch soon with news of a phased reopening, albeit for a reduced service.
I am encouraged by the progress made and confident in the new plans. The Society has strong values and a loyal and longstanding staff and we will not compel anyone to work. We are currently busy identifying a group of volunteers, happy with the new processes that we've designed, who can provide a satisfactory level of service without the need for regular closure and suspension.
There is no script to follow in this unprecedented challenge we all face. What Steve, and now I in this update are trying to do, is to share the situation as we see it and explain to members what we are doing on their behalf to keep them, and our staff, safe.
The Committee is fully behind the actions we have taken to date, though I am sorry not every member agrees with everything. Please let me assure you that we all want to see The Society open for business again very soon.