Fruit & veg wholesaler Reynolds has laid off 400 employees in a bid to future-proof the business.
The move follows the foodservice wholesaler’s decision in March to furlough 85% of its 1,300 staff, after losing 95% of its customers overnight as lockdown measures shuttered the hospitality industry.
Third-generation owner Tony Reynolds told The Grocer the raft of redundancies had made him feel ”physically sick”.
“I still can’t believe it, not one of those members of staff had done anything wrong. Being a family business, it hits you harder. It’s been difficult for the whole business, it’s been brutal.”
Reynolds said he felt “forced” into making the decision as sales projections to December 2020 put the business back to 60% of trading.
He said he hoped to be able to welcome back some employees who had not yet found work should the wholesaler exceed the 60% marker.
Currently, business had returned to 35% of pre-Covid levels as orders were placed ahead of the 4 July restart.
The North London-based wholesaler has provided job-seeking support to the 400 staff, including assistance with CVs and mental health workshops.
Some 700 members of staff are scheduled to return from furlough between July and October.
The business, which has a turnover of £210m according to its latest accounts at Companies House, lost an estimated £500k in wasted stock in April.
Reynolds said that loss could have been seven figures if it wasn’t for the skeleton team still working who “tried to find a home for perishable stock as quickly as possible”.
With less than 200 staff working throughout the lockdown period, the wholesaler continued to service its NHS and care home customers, as well as launching a direct to consumer business.
Reynolds confirmed future plans included diversifying further into the DTC market as well as securing additional public sector contracts in order to spread its risk.
“As a business owner you have a lot of responsibility,” said Reynolds. “Yes we are in the trenches, we have a battle. What we now have to think about is how we are going to define our legacy, how are we going to come out of it knowing we’ve done all we can to grow in the future.”