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Dunsters Farm: The evolution of a family-run business in unprecedented times

Dunsters Farm wholesale
Dunsters Farm is based in Bury, near Manchester

As part of Be the Business’ ongoing Rebuild project, we’re catching up with small business leaders from different industries. In this series, we’re tracking family-run wholesale business, Dunsters Farm, as it evolves from being a solely B2B company and braces for the impact of Brexit. 

Unlike supermarkets, wholesale businesses were badly hit when the lockdown began. In order to survive, many had to change normal practices and develop ranges – family-run wholesale company, Dunsters Farm, was one such small business. 

When 95 per cent of business dried up overnight, Dunsters Farm found itself in a precarious position. By adapting the business model to include B2C options and a click and collect service, as well as diversifying its product range, the company was able to navigate the impact of coronavirus.  

“A good day was 40 per cent turnover”

Dunsters Farm has been open about the challenges faced from the start. As a small, family-run wholesale business based entirely in the North of England, its operations were severely hit by lockdown, the subsequent tier systems and high infection rates, so any business changes had to balance a return to turnover with staff safety.

“On a good day, our sales were 40 per cent of turnover in the first lockdown, at a bad day, 20 per cent. We made a loss for a long time,” said Hannah Barlow, joint managing director at Dunsters Farm.

Hannah Barlow – Dunsters Farm
Hannah Barlow runs the business with her brother, Tom Mathew

“Roughly 95 per cent of our customers closed their doors because of the government restrictions [in the first lockdown],” she remembered.

“We did have some customers that stayed open, and we had contracts that we needed to fulfil. We used the furlough scheme and we went down to pretty much just skeleton staff to be able to serve those customers.”

“We always thought we were quite agile, but we’ve had to do so much more, so it’s been a bit of an eye-opener,” she added, but admitted that the uncertainty of coronavirus has helped with another large challenge on the horizon – Brexit.

We’ll be catching up with Hannah every month to find out how Dunsters Farm is getting on. To follow the company’s story, navigate the dropdowns below to find out what the updates are across the key challenges the business faces.

The challenges

With so many events venues still facing restrictions, schools and hospitals serving fewer and different meals, and a demand for cleaning supplies on the rise, Dunsters Farm had many challenges to overcome.

For more stories on how business leaders are dealing with these turbulent times, click here.

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