The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Commentary: Distribution Can — and Will — Weather This Storm

We all have a hefty task on our plates, to manage through a crisis the global scale of which has never been seen before.
Storm clouds over a field

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What a time we are living in. I had a moment the other day when I was putting together a family calendar to manage my four children’s school assignments as well as my husband’s and my work conference calls — complete with asterisks for which calls were ‘interruptable’ and which weren’t — where I just had to stop and laugh at the upside-down nature of life right now.

We all have an impossible task on our plates, to manage through a crisis the global scale of which has never been seen before. Each of us is naturally going to cycle through a range of emotions. One thing I learned in the early days of dealing with the fallout of COVID-19, when I still held a shred of hope that school would re-open this year, was to go with each emotion as it comes. Feeling overwhelmed? It’s OK to take a break and go for a walk. Suddenly productive at midnight? Embrace the energy and mark some items off that to-do list. After all, there is no 6:30 a.m. school bus to catch.

Emotions I’ve noticed in every distributor we’ve spoken with since the coronavirus first surfaced include a sense of calm and purpose. This virus may be novel, but distributors deal with disruption on a daily basis. Take Julia Klein, for example. The chairwoman and CEO of C.H. Briggs Co. spoke with MDM CEO Tom Gale during one of our now regular Friday MDM Live webcasts on COVID-19. (Visit mdm.com/mdmlive for playback and to sign up for the next one.) Although C.H. Briggs saw a 50% drop in business nearly overnight as customers were forced to shut their doors, Klein described how she drew upon her experience during the Great Recession to “act fast and boldly” to keep the company strong.

The International Foodservice Distributors Association is projecting a $24 billion loss over the next three months for the industry. And yet, the organization is doing what it can to help, partnering with the Food Industry Association on a matchmaking partnership to connect foodservice distributors with excess capacity with food retailers and wholesalers who are seeing surging demands at grocery stores.

There’s no way my kids are going to complete every single assignment they’ve been given. Some of those un-interruptable calls will be interrupted. Even “essential” workers will be furloughed and laid off. But I believe distribution will ultimately come through this crisis stronger than ever. Meanwhile, in this issue of Premium, you’ll read about how to keep your network safe with so many employees working remotely and how to make the most of reconfigured work environments.

As I write this, I can hear my daughter playing with her dolls in her room. I get this special glimpse into her creativity and imagination on a daily basis now — something I would otherwise miss with her at preschool and me at the office. While there are so many uncertain and negative things hitting us every day, the small silver linings are there if we pay attention to them.

 

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