Director of oriental grocery business gives insight into running stores during a pandemic

Brian Yip.

Brian Yip is the Director of Wing Yip, the largest oriental grocery business in the UK. The company was founded by his father, alumnus Woon Wing Yip OBE, in 1970.

What is it like to be in charge of an essential retailer during the pandemic? Find out more as we chat to alumnus, Brian.

When the UK went into lockdown, the company followed government guidelines as an essential retailer to ensure they could continue trading. The safety of colleagues and customers is the number one priority and staff at the stores are continuing to work very hard to ensure safety measures, implemented since the pandemic started, are followed.

Brian said:

The stores are currently operating in a manner to safeguard the health of our teams and customers. Store openings times were initially reduced, although these recently returned to our normal opening hours.

The stores still operate with a limited number of people allowed inside at any one time, with queuing systems in place both inside and outside of the stores, and ensuring that our customers and employees can remain at a safe distance of 2 metres apart from each other at all times.

Regarding sanitisation, Brian said:

The stores are continuing to regularly sanitise all areas including card machines, basket trolleys and flat beds. We have provided sanitiser for customers to clean both their hands-on arrival and trolley handles (if not already done so by a member of staff) and have added line markings at the checkouts and around the store to aid social distancing.

We have implemented a strict hand sanitising process across all stores for our colleagues, plus we have regular deep cleans for the whole store by an external cleaning company.

All staff are provided with a PPE uniform including gloves, face masks and face visors. We have introduced a health screening process for our colleagues before they start work and ensure we are carrying out shop floor replenishment at quieter times to reduce the number of people in the store.

These steps have been put in place to help keep customers safe whilst shopping. Also, consumers are increasingly seeking ways to engage online, and the demand for online deliveries has spiked since the pandemic. Ecommerce has been a key part to our business for some time and is also an area the company will continue to focus on and develop.

Brian and his team faced several challenges, but with team resilience and adaptability to change, Brian tells us how the company have worked round them:

Due to the surge in demand for grocery items, it was important to carefully consider how shelves would be safely restocked. To ensure we were meeting the demand for products by our customers in store, each location is organised at appropriate times, where teams could safely restock shelves during quieter moments in the day and out of hours. The reduced opening hours at the start of lock-down also helped teams to successfully do this. 

During this period, we were working with fewer staff members, all working 6 days a week. It was all hands on deck, all team members (including senior members of the business) were working across all departments to ensure essential support, from carpark assistance to shop floor, warehouse replenishing, in the packing room, moving stock around the business, working on the tills and everything in between. This really has brought the entire workforce together and has helped maintain morale as all team members pull together to help each other.

Brian is very grateful to the whole team and describes them as “incredibly dedicated”.

During the pandemic, the company has seen positive outcomes, Brian outlines an example of this:

During these unprecedented and challenging times, each store has looked for ways to support the local communities where possible. In recent months we have been working more closely with several local charities and building our relationships with the community even more. This includes sending products and ingredients to local people who are cooking and creating meals for vulnerable people in the area. What is more, it has helped build a stronger company team.

Our Company values of Respect, Teamwork, Taking Responsibility and Striving to do Better really shone through, all the individuals who worked during the pandemic’s height and ensured we survived the most difficult time during our 50-year trading existence, we thank them all very much.

Brian graduated with a degree in Banking and Finance in 1997.

Read more about Loughborough University’s partnership with Wing Yip.