Records tumble as America’s Cup demand soars
A record-breaking May is extending into June for Butterfield & Vallis, with staff working flat out to cope with a major boost in business for the wholesale distributor.
The company has confirmed to The Royal Gazette that the extraordinary level of business it saw last month, due to the extra demands created by the opening week of the 35th America’s Cup, and the Tall Ships Festival, is continuing this month.
Butterfield & Vallis has added 24 additional Bermudian staff to handle the bigger workload during the America’s Cup period, and it has paid out more than 2,300 hours of overtime as of yesterday.
That last point is particularly significant as it signals a change from an overtime structure introduced almost a decade ago following the global financial crisis os 2008. The company introduced a system which meant workers booked time in lieu rather than receive payments for overtime.
“Back then, rather than let staff go, which was something were committed to not doing, people banked overtime and then could use it in the winter months to take an extended vacation or work another job,” said Spencer Butterfield, chief operating officer.
Now, with so much work required to keep pace with the demand of stores, hotels and restaurants, normal overtime payments have returned.
The scale of the upturn in business in the run up to and start of the month-long America’s Cup, has brought a 30 per cent increase in the volume of food and drink sales to hotels and restaurants in May.
There was a 20 per cent uplift in produce and products ordered by grocery stores and shops.
And this month to date the trend has continued, although there has been a switch over with demand from stores now recording a higher percentage monthly increase compared to the hospitality sector.
At the halfway point in June, demand from stores is up more than 15 per cent, while demand from hotels and restaurants is up 10 per cent. Those figures could go higher as the America’s Cup competition reaches a climax this weekend.
For some time Butterfield & Vallis has been preparing for the expected spikes in demand this summer.
Using the Advanced Inventory Replenishment system, a digital software programme, the company pre-plans and keeps track of products and produce coming to the island or already in storage.
“We get red flags when things are getting low,” said Mr Butterfield. He explained that significant advance orders are placed for products that take longer to arrive and are expected to be in great demand.
An example is Highland Spring bottled water, which is imported from Scotland.
“We bulked up on that ahead of time. There are specific products that need to be ordered well in advance.”
That contrasts with highly perishable items, such as meat, fish and fresh produce which need to be shipped in continuously. Orders are adjusted as daily demands are assessed.
There has been plenty of extra work to unload, pick orders and deliver them to customers. Anticipating this, Butterfield & Vallis “bulked up” on its staffing levels, taking on 24 additional workers for the America’s Cup period. It started a recruitment drive in January for warehouse, sales and customer service department workers.
The company also recognises the importance of maintaining employee morale during such a busy period. Mr Butterfield said the key stress points had been identified and bolstered with additional resources.
“We’re all very busy, and we have a running joke that we can take a rest in July.”
He added: “We are delighted with the boost the America’s Cup and other summer events have given us. We are tremendously appreciative of the hard work carried out by all our team members under demanding circumstance.
“We believe this goes to show that Bermuda is well equipped to deal with an influx of visitors while continuing to serve our regular customers.”