A south London couple launched a successful grocery delivery business during the pandemic as thousands of Britons were forced to rely on couriers to supply them food in lockdown.
National lockdowns to curb the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted countless businesses since March 2020, with many small firms forced to close their doors.
Florists Emma Soulsby and Leigh Daley, from Wimbledon, launched ‘Magnificent Marrow’ to deliver fresh produce to Britons after the lockdown had an immediate impact on their livelihoods.
Soulsby, 37, had been due to create an installation for her first big celebrity wedding overseas when the first lockdown hit, and later lost most of her floral bookings at Emma Soulsby Flowers.
Looking for a way to stay afloat, the couple sat down one night and decided to embark on a new venture. Within a week and a half, ‘Magnificent Marrow,’ a UK-wide delivery service for fresh produce and flowers, was born.
Speaking about the venture, Daley, 44, told NTD: “Initially it was to help people who were struggling to get food due to the first lockdown and it was successful from the start.”
The couple initially worked from the back of a van and completed around 100 local deliveries a day during the first lockdown. But they soon outgrew the van and upgraded to a unit in Raynes Park, where they live.
After initial success on a local level, Daley and Soulsby expanded the venture to offer both local deliveries via dedicated drivers and nationwide deliveries through a third party courier company.
“The learning curve was steep right from the beginning,” Soulsby said, which included finding printer ink during lockdown, and “understanding little things like potatoes.”
Working around the clock is also challenging. A typical day for the couple could begin at 1 a.m., when they head to the market to buy fresh produce for online orders. They then rush back to the unit to pack the London delivery boxes to be collected at 6 a.m.
By leveraging her previous business contacts and utilizing social media, Soulsby managed to get a jump start in her new business.
“I’ve got 10,000 followers from the wedding side of business so it was really good to reach out to that network,” she said.
“All of the celebrities I worked for in the past, I asked, please could you share this business. And they did. It was incredible.”
Soulsby hopes to renew her floral business when restrictions slowly ease throughout the summer.
The family-run grocer was launched amid a surge in demand for online grocery shopping during the first lockdown.
Market research shows that the lockdowns drove more than half of UK customers to shop for their food and drink online rather than in store, causing a 75 per cent growth in sales and making 2020 a record year for the online market.
But as lockdown is set to finally end in June, only five per cent of online customers say they will go back to shopping in store.
Therefore, what was initially born out of necessity may become a long-term trend, according to market intelligence company Mintel.
Nick Carroll, Associate Director at Mintel, said the combination of consumer concern and greater in-home food and drink demand drove the record growth.
“The vast majority of customers currently in the channel intend to remain, bringing significant opportunity and an undoubted legacy boost to online grocery sales in the UK,” he said.
NTD Reporter Neil Woodrow contributed to this report.