I hope all is well with you and your loved ones during these difficult days. I’m writing to give you an update on developments at Vegan Fine Foods and to share my thoughts on the protests sweeping the country and the world.
We decided to keep Vegan Fine Foods open during the COVID-19 lockdown period. We shifted to a takeout and delivery model, although we did allow a limited number of customers in the store for grocery purchases. In the early days and weeks of the shutdown, beginning in early March, our sales dropped by over 80%. We were designated an essential business and wanted to remain open to serve our customers, many of whom are first responders. That is what we did, and although sales were unpredictable and the fear surrounding COVID-19 was very high, out team continued to work through the challenges. By the middle of May, things started to change for the better and there was a push to reopen the economy in Florida and throughout the country. By that time, it was clear that it was more costly for us to remain open than to temporarily close. There were new COVID-19 regulations around social distancing, sanitization, and required store upgrades to protect our customers and employees. Therefore, I decided it would be best to temporarily close the store on May 15th and work on implementing the changes. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to do some much needed remodeling in our café and a deep cleaning of the entire store, from top to bottom.
We have now been closed for over three weeks and are now planning our grand reopening. We are on track to finish most of the remodeling and COVID-related upgrades by early next week. We not only reorganized the store, but we have also upgraded a number of internal systems, including our POS and inventory management systems. During the past few weeks, we have also received some media attention. Two articles were published in the national trade journal, Natural Foods Merchandiser, published by New Hope Media. The first article was published on April 27, 2020 and titled: Rooted in Plants: Innovation Expands Market for Plant-Based Foods. I was interviewed and quoted in the article. Click here to read the article.
There was a second article published on May 7th by the same journal, that discussed our decision to stay open during the pandemic. It’s titled: Coping with COVID: One Retailer’s Solution for Staying Safe and (Somewhat) Open. Click here to read the article.
As we finalize our plans for the grand reopening, we have lots of exciting initiative we are preparing to announce. We will be making those announcements soon, hopefully within the next few weeks. Our franchising activities have slowed during the shutdown; however, our prospective franchisees are still excited and ready to move forward with plans to open new locations as soon as things normalize. The launch of our new online store has been delayed, mainly due to issues beyond our control at our fulfillment partner/distributor. As a result, we have shifted our strategy and will now be handling our own fulfillment with our new logistics partner right here in the Fort Lauderdale area. One of the upcoming announcements will be about the launch of the Vegan Fine Foods e-commerce platform. Stay tuned.
The last topic I want to address is the ongoing protests against police brutality and racial injustice that have swept the country since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. We are all against police brutality and the unfair treatment of African Americans that has unfortunately been a part of our country’s history since its founding. We are hopeful that out of the horrific tragedy we all witnessed on the video of Mr. Floyd’s murder, that positive change will happen. We at Vegan Fine Foods will support open dialog among our customers and employees and will do our part to be a part of the positive changes that we all want to see. During the protests in downtown Fort Lauderdale last weekend, our store was damaged. The front door window was smashed, along with another one of our windows. We feel fortunate that no one entered and looted the store. The damaged to the store was covered by the local media. I was interviewed by the local CBS television news and a publication called the South Florida Business Journal. In the interview, I took the position the windows can and will be replaced, but the lives lost cannot. The article ends on a positive note, with the hope that positive change will happen ( click here to read.pdf ). We want to encourage all of our stakeholders, including all of you, to be a part of the change that all want and need to see.
Thank you for your attention and continued support. I look forward to sharing exciting news with you as the economy and our business reopens. Please be safe as the reopening process moves forward. I’ll be in touch soon.
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