Stefano Cuomo, Macknade: “The run in has begun”

22 November 2022, 10:28 AM
  • Stefano Cuomo, CEO of Macknade Food Hall, shares his thoughts on the festive months ahead in his latest column for Speciality Food
Stefano Cuomo, Macknade: “The run in has begun”

I have touched on looking for leaders amongst our political elite before… feels a bit like looking for a four-leaf clover amongst verdant cattle pastures – you have faith there must be one, you’ve just got trudge through all the… well… cow dung.

Anyhow, the political distraction continues, and meanwhile in our own little SME world we are making momentous decision one after another, day by day, as we navigate the waters ahead of us.

Sharing the weight of these months with peers continues to be critical, in not only spreading the burden, understanding that we are not alone, but for finding novel ways forward, borrowing dynamic plans and exchanging what has worked and what has not… building our memory banks and setting blueprints for the future.

A real positive of these economic times that we are going through is that it is shared across sectors – well that is not exactly the positive, rather that it has brought me closer to other industries, whether production and manufacturing, or civil services and education – all of us sharing thoughts, bonding and building stronger more diverse business networks than I have had before.

Now onto September, October, November and…! The change of season is now done and in spite of choices we have had to make, the cool winds are blowing and the suggestion of the scent of cloves and cinnamon is in the air!

The shop is starting to fill, the mechanics of family festivities are on the shelves, and a reminder of how our sector does it best!

Celebrating all that is good about humanity, through the ‘breaking of bread’ around the communal table, family feasting and festivities, whether the simple scent of a Christmas satsuma or the rich, dense stench of a cheeseboard left out for hours!

It is something we have to address – this dependence on the seasonal flows of our sector – but at the same time the quietness of September feels like a forgotten normality. Covid skewed it all but before, this was the truth… holidays sucked our cash, and the ‘back to school season’ meant new flows were being set, resulting on tightening of the purse strings… with October the run-in then began.

We will have to watch it this year – but I do believe that family and friends will want to be together around food, and not only food… but great food!

Soul-nourishing food that reinvigorates us through these long, dark days and it will be the delicatessen, the food markets and farm shops, cheese rooms and craft grocers that will be there to share it all!

I am concerned as to whether the spend will translate to the normal ‘packaged treats’ and we will have to watch the sales flows and pricing impacts, taking a view on margin loss to make sure we nail the 24th.

It will be incessant and not letting the view drop will be critical, but I believe the big emotive and experiential departments of green grocery, delicatessen, meat, wine and drinks will thrive – we must just continue to remind our communities how good our produce is both in flavour and narrative, how it represents who we are and where we are from, how purchases made through us flow back down through our whole community, making sure every local spend nourishes the people around it.

I know our whole supply chain will work closely together – gone are the days where each step looked to load the next with the risk. Wholesaler and retailer must work hand in hand to manage stock and sales, so all benefit and the risk is reduced.

Producers too – staying in constant contact with the channels that will engage all our customers and deliver the sales we all need – a strategy of togetherness has never been more important.

I have grown up with many of our suppliers, understanding how every part of the route, from field to plate, pulses has always been critical. We each have our role to play, to not only tell the story but make sure each and everyone of us gets the value required.

Great food and drink will always be the vessel that brings us, every one of us, together, and never more so than this Xmas!

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