Over the past few years, the South African economy has been under strain, putting significant pressure on both businesses and individuals alike. This, coupled with the pandemic, placed even further stress on various sectors. “Like many industries, the fuel and c-store retail sectors were severely affected by the global pandemic,” says Managing Director of FreshStop, Joe Boyle.

“The lockdown restrictions that included the banning of all tobacco products, and prepared hot foods and beverages, severely impacted the convenience retail store market. The initial haphazard, rapidly changing restrictions caused confusion with several FreshStop retailers being targeted by the police as they opened their doors as essential service providers – whilst being told that they were not allowed to trade.

The civil unrest that broke out in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July last year further inflicted a devastating blow to businesses that had already been battered by the pandemic. “Nine FreshStop and Caltex forecourt sites were ransacked and close to 50 retailers had to close their sites, which led to many of our colleagues being made redundant until the sites were rebuilt and reopened.

“And just as residents and businesses were starting to recover from the 2021 riots, the floods caused more havoc for businesses, the province, and the economy; with nine FreshStop stores damaged and one remaining closed. Most devastating is the severe impact it has had on poorer communities. At FreshStop, we have had 50 colleagues lose their homes and personal belongings, and two families have lost family members,” explains Boyle.

To alleviate some of the financial distress caused by lockdown and ensure adequate nutrition, FreshStop assisted their colleagues and families through the donation of more than R400,000 worth of fruit and vegetables. And in response to the latest crisis, the FreshStop Franchise Forum developed two cash support channels to assist colleagues and those less fortunate in areas most affected by the floods.

FreshStop also committed to match any cash donations made to the FreshStop KZN Flood Relief Fund, which was set up to assist those affected by the floods.

Along with other donors, FreshStop was able to donate R180,000 to colleagues, and close to R420k was raised by the Retailer along with other benefactors, which was donated to the Gift of the Givers.

“We looked at various ways to assist with basic necessities but also ensure that the funds raised would be fairly managed and delivered by a specialised team to all flood-affected communities that had been severely impacted. For this reason, we decided that the funds raised, would be donated to the Gift of the Givers Foundation (an international disaster response NGO), which has been at the forefront of helping the people of KwaZulu-Natal during this difficult time.

All in all, we were able to raise R600,000 for those impacted by the floods. Whilst we realise our donation is just a drop in the ocean, we know just how very much every drop counts.

We’d like to thank everyone who donated to the FreshStop KZN Flood Relief Fund and to the Franchise Forum. We further extend our gratitude to Muhammad Sooliman of Gift of the Givers and his team for the endless assistance they provide in assisting those who are less fortunate and those that are going through a crisis such as the floods,” concludes Boyle.