Covid-19: with teleworking, the food vending sector is in crisis

François, 33, supplies and maintains customers’ machines. (SANDRINE ETOA-ANDEGUE / RADIO FRANCE)

No more gossip in front of the coffee machine or the relaxing break with colleagues around a chocolate bar at the end of the afternoon … With the Covid-19 epidemic, confinement and teleworking, distributors of drinks and sweets are laid off. Between 10,000 and 25,000 jobs in the automatic food distribution sector are thus threatened according to Navsa, the national trade union chamber for automatic sales and services.

Cristal is a family company located in the industrial area of ​​Seclin, in the Lille metropolis. The company has dthey directors, 14 employees and a friendly atmosphere. For 30 years, the company has been selling or renting and maintaining vending machines for drinks and sweets in businesses in the North and Hauts-de-France. But with the Covid-19, orders are rarer. Many customers believe that these candy distributors are vectors of the virus and deny access.

Pierre-Yves & nbsp; Thieu, director of Cristal, in front of his stocks of unsold products.
Pierre-Yves Thieu, director of Cristal, in front of his stocks of unsold products. (SANDRINE ETOA-ANDEGUE / RADIO FRANCE)

There are also partners who have simply gone out of business, says Pierre-Yves Thieu, director of Cristal, in despair:There are boxes that have already filed for bankruptcy, which were, admittedly, already not in great shape before and the Covid has completed them. These are totally closed customers, where we have recovered the machine park. And then we have clients who have concerns and cancel contracts. “ The northern company lost just under 400,000 euros in revenue.

It’s a big loss. It’s a lifetime for us. We’re independents, so it’s really hard to live with.

Pierre-Yves Thieu, boss of Cristal

to franceinfo

The other heartbreak, laments the boss, is the obligation to put in the trash kilos of unsold goods. Even if the northern company makes donations to associations, it finds itself with a lot of stocks on its hands. “There are all the chocolate bars. We had to throw away a lot of them, regrets Pierre-Yves Thieu. It is still necessary to manage as best as possible to avoid the loss, which is already very important. It amounts, between the first confinement and the current period, to more than 25,000 euros of losses for discarded products. ”

To save money, the bosses of Cristal keep an eye on everything, down to the penny. Sales people have adapted their tour, pay attention to gasoline. François, 33, supplies and maintains the machines. This commercial, a “beating” as he says, swallows the miles in his gray utility vehicle. “Me, 2021 maybe scares me more than 2020 because between the companies which will not recover and the unemployment which will increase, we do not know what sauce we are going to be eaten in 2021. It is complicated to having this pressure all the time with this virus For the people we love, we have to work, we have to be in the field and we are not immune to bringing this shit home , if I may, and my child be touched “, he confides with sobs in his voice.

The Cristal company is sometimes forced to come looking for a whole fleet of machines when a customer goes out of business.
The Cristal company is sometimes forced to come and look for a whole fleet of machines when a customer goes out of business. (SANDRINE ETOA-ANDEGUE / RADIO FRANCE)

The virus, the uncertain future … Bruno, technician with 30 years of home, is also worried. “We walk on eggshells. Me, I’m 57. At my age, it’s very complicated. If tomorrow, we find ourselves unemployed, I’m not yet, how to say, old enough to be retired and so it’s complicated. ”

Cristal has resorted to partial unemployment but has so far not been able to benefit from the solidarity fund because she is not eligible. It will be possible soon, the federation fought for that. In their office, the directors of the company, along with other bosses in the region, are coached by a tax expert by videoconference to understand the aid system. It’s a maze with complicated cumulative criteria to have, explains Pierre-Yves Thieu. So, because of this, there is a lot of abandonment on our part. If we have to fill out a 26-page file and match X criteria … Often, we give up because we have more important to do for the survival of our business “

In their office, the directors of & nbsp; Cristal & nbsp; are coached & nbsp; by a tax specialist in videoconference & nbsp; to understand the aid systems.
In their office, the directors of Cristal are coached by a tax expert in videoconference to understand the aid systems. (SANDRINE ETOA-ANDEGUE / RADIO FRANCE)

With the reconfinement, food vending companies, a large majority of micro-businesses and SMEs, should experience a 20 to 30% drop in activity compared to 2019. “Which is considerable because these companies are paid only on consumption and have very low margins”, indicates Yoann Chuffart, general delegate of Navsa, the federation of the sector. Since the start of the crisis, the bosses of Cristal have limited the damage. There were three voluntary departures. But they warn, if this continues, there will be layoffs.

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