No matter how strong and successful, no retail business has been immune to the effects of coronavirus this year.
For Tesco, the Hercules of the UK high street and colossus of convenience, 2020 brought an array of challenges.
Getting product availability right, managing in-store social distancing, expanding delivery slot numbers, keeping customers informed and colleagues supported. Every part of the business was affected.
And among all this unexpected upheaval, Tesco bosses took the time to think about the most crucial frontline workers during the pandemic: NHS staff.
Today we bring you a story of a luxury fashion brand truly wearing its heart on its sleeve.
Spot a Net-a-Porter van in more typical times and it’s likely to be filled with high-end fashion, exquisite accessories and dazzling shoes.
But in 2020, this upmarket retailer’s vehicles have transported far fewer Gucci handbags or Dolce & Gabbana dresses.
Instead, staff have rolled up their designer sleeves and donated the use of their fleet to the coronavirus cause across the globe.
Today we bring you a stirring story of philanthropy and pancakes.
Cast your mind back to March. It’s day two of lockdown in the UK. While everyone was getting to grips with the new rules and restrictions, chef and café owner Aidan Jackson was opening up his Newcastle business with unexpected uncertainty hanging over his head.
So imagine his surprise when just 15 minutes after opening a customer came through the door and ordered 25 servings of his favourite breakfast: freshly baked pancakes and hot coffee.
Today we’ve got a wonderful tale of teenage terrific-ness for all you parents out there.
A story that well and truly illustrates the power of spreading a little kindness.
Imagine the scene.
Actually, forget imagination. You just need your memory. You’re in the car at the end of a busy day. The kids are tired and emotional and loud. At least one person in the car is crying....
It’s been a bit different, hasn’t it?
The empty shelves of the early panic-buying days. The faintly apocalyptic Tannoy announcements, politely warning us to only add three packets of pasta to our trolley. The queuing in the rain, alone, vaguely excited at the prospect of seeing four walls different to the ones inside your home.
Through all this strangeness, one UK retail hero has been making these essential trips a little easier, a little friendlier and a little less overwhelming for shoppers in Kent.
Gavin Baker is one of the team at Sainsbury’s in Hempstead Valley.
And he has a lot of fans. Just for doing something simple and thoughtful every single day.
A simple trip to the supermarket has taken on a whole new dimension in 2020.
Today we’d like you to imagine 2020 without WiFi.
Yep, no late night Netflix binging, no endless Zoom meetings, no Facetime family catch-ups, no Google Classrooms lessons for the kids.
Unless you fancied forking out for crazy levels of 4G connectivity.
Sounds like a horror-themed box set doesn’t it?
Cancelled plans. Postponed plans. Uncertain plans. It’s not been the best year for plans.
From birthday celebrations to round-the-world trips and weddings to honeymoons, the best-laid plans have often gone awry in 2020.
For Mandy Hamling, it was her May wedding to fiancé Michael Shire that sadly couldn’t take place.
Mandy’s used to walking down aisles. As a store assistant at a branch of Asda in Cardiff, South Wales, her daily routine involves plenty of them.
So on the day she should have been walking down a church aisle in her wedding dress, she turned up for work in her green uniform for a regular supermarket shift.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to appreciate all those people who have kept working, kept going and kept our essential services operating no matter what.
The doctors, the nurses, the delivery drivers, the supermarket workers, the teachers.
We’ve clapped for them, we’ve drawn rainbows to celebrate their dedication, we’ve seen them in a whole new light.
But among these heroes are a group who have largely remained unsung: the thousands of experts working at opticians across the world.
For those of us with unexpected time on our hands in 2020, lockdown may have sparked or reignited a love of books.
It’s not just been a way to while away the hours during furlough, but an escape from the everyday narrative of face masks and hand sanitiser.
But for nine-year-old storyteller and bookworm Langston Miller, the joy of reading was a little tarnished.
While he loved filling page after page with characters that looked like him, he struggled to find books that looked similar to his.
Empty shelves. Panic buying. Stockpiling.
We’re all familiar with some of the supermarket buzzwords that have been in the spotlight throughout 2020.
But away from these pandemic-fuelled problems, we want to share a positive story about an issue that never goes away: surplus stock.
While non-perishables have been in such high demand, the leftover fresh produce dilemma hasn’t gone away.
So we’re heading to South Africa for today’s tale of pandemic philanthropy.
We’re suckers for innovation so when we heard about this story we just had to share it with you.
It’s a tale of thoughtfulness, all about making life easier for some very special people on this planet: mums. Specifically those who are breastfeeding their babies.
Finding a private, peaceful place to feed and express can be a daily dilemma. And this year, it can easily become just one more source of stress in an already upside-down world for new mums.
Step forward parent champions Walmart. In particular, senior business services manager Tennille Webb.
We can all agree that kids across the world have had it tough this year.
Separated from friends, kept apart from grandparents and – the ultimate challenge for any youngster – being home-schooled at the kitchen table by Mum and Dad.
Their usual hangouts closed then open then closed again, there’s never been a time like it for coming up with creative ways to pass the time.
And as much as we love children’s passions for baking and drawing, today’s story blows those out of the water.
Let us introduce you to Nigerian brothers Muiz, aged 15 and Malik, aged 10, and their cousin 13-year-old Fawas. Firm friends and fantastic film makers.
Today we bring you a scrumptious story of cheese-flavoured charity and dough-themed decency.
Yes guys, this one is all about that saviour of mealtimes, that dependable savoury stalwart, the pizza.
You’ve probably eaten quite a few pizzas during lockdown. Convenient, tasty, easy to grab from the freezer.
For Californian couple Dani Haberman and CJ Colace, their passion for pizza went one step further. And brought some much-needed light into their lives.
We love hearing stories of ingenuity and innovation. Especially this year when the good news has too often been hard to find.
So we’d like to invite you to join us on a LEGO adventure.
Who doesn’t love LEGO? Whether you’re a purist who precisely puts sets together and never touches them again or you’re an experimental creator, its charm is universal.
Before 2020 threw us all a curveball, we’d head out to the shops with the usual basic stuff.
Phone? Check. Keys? Check. Wallet? Check.
Now, we all have to add one extra item to our list: a face mask.
Who would have thought a year ago that these innocuous pieces of fabric would become an essential part of a simple trip to get groceries?
Today, we’d like you to cast your mind back to your childhood. Especially those games you could have played for endless hours. And actually, come to think of it, probably did.
Maybe your favourite was a video game. You were a sucker for Super Mario or a dedicated Sonic superfan.
But we reckon many of you will be nostalgic for a family board game. A leisurely game of Scrabble or high-stakes session of Monopoly.
The life-changing challenges of this year have motivated acts of kindness all over the world.
Uplifting anecdotes that shine a light on the undeniable power of the human spirit.
But not many of them involve a personal financial sacrifice amounting to millions of dollars.
Let us introduce you to Kent Taylor. A man from humble beginnings who put his heart and soul into building his business.
We’ve all seen the evidence of how tough it is out there on the high street.
Lockdown store closures, the ever-growing switch to online, customer concerns about social distancing measures. They’ve all added up to a perfect storm of retail woe and worry.
For UK high street stalwart Marks & Spencer, it’s been a year of historic sales figures. But for all the wrong reasons.
They recently posted their first ever loss in its 94 years as a publicly listed company. A pretty depressing sign of the times for this much-loved brand.
But despite this intense commercial pressure, the company synonymous with quality and all things British, hasn’t lost sight of the positive role it can play in the pandemic.
Before we share today’s really remarkable story, we’d like you to dive deep into your imagination.
You’re one of the Top 50 richest people in the world. You have more money than you know what to do with.
You’ve bought the yacht, the multiple beachfront homes around the world, the supercar. You’ve donated to numerous charities. Now what?
With the planet in an unexpected crisis, perhaps you’d want to share some of your wealth to fund vital medical research?
That’s exactly what Japanese retail magnate Tadashi Yanai has done this year.
For many people, 2020 has been a year of belt-tightening and carefully planned spending.
Fewer indulgences, fewer holidays, fewer meals out. It’s been a time for essentials not extravagance.
Job losses and economic uncertainty have fuelled a very different approach to money. One that’s left some charities in crisis.
In the UK, it’s been reported that 1 in 10 face bankruptcy as they stare a £10 billion funding deficit in the face. Without donors, much of their work has very sadly been compromised.
While hospitals have been overwhelmed and supermarkets have dealt with snake-like queues, other parts of our towns and cities have been altogether quieter.
The deserted shopping malls, the eerily quiet city centres and the silent school playgrounds all helped to create that odd lockdown atmosphere.
Add to these the forlorn fuel forecourts which saw the number of drivers needing to fill up dwindle dramatically.
With offices closed and millions working from home the number of drivers needing to fuel their cars has dwindled dramatically. Cars just haven’t been as thirsty for petrol and diesel.
But this hasn’t stopped global fuel giant BP from stepping in to lend a very generous hand.
‘Twas the night before Christmas and it’s highly likely your fridge is full to overflowing with all kinds of festive goodies.
For many, overindulgence is the story of the season. We’ll be feasting on delicious delicacies and a small mountain of snacks, possibly accompanied by our favourite tipple.
But today we’d like to take a moment to raise a toast to a retailer who’s recognised that not everyone is fortunate enough to afford such a feast.
Wherever you are in the world this Christmas Day, on the sunny shores of South Africa or in the colder climes of the UK, we have a truly heart-warming story to share.
One that takes us from the frozen ground of South America to a frozen food retailer in north-west England.
A journey that ends at a world-leading zoo which has struggled to survive during this difficult year.
At this time of year, think of hats and you’re more likely to picture paper hats round the Christmas dinner table or a bobble hat to keep off the cold.
But how about a giant cardboard crown measuring two metres across?
Making spirits bright has been more important than ever this year. And we’ve been able to rely on some big-name brands for a healthy dose of humour.
So Burger King, we take our hats off to you for a genius idea.
Home is where the heart is. And for many in 2020, it’s also been where the office is, not to mention the school desk.
With workplaces and education settings closed, houses across the world have had to do some serious multitasking this year.
And dare we say it, have we sometimes felt a little fed up seeing the same four walls each day?
Today we’re inviting you to spare a thought for those families who’ve not been able to spend as much time at home as they’d like.
Today we’re bringing you a stirring story of faith in trying times. Complete with a sprinkling of Swedish selflessness.
Millions of people across the globe have been unable to visit places of worship this year. With the doors to churches, temples and synagogues firmly shut, places to pray collectively have been severely restricted.
So how did an unassuming IKEA car park make such a huge difference?
2020 has been an unforgettable year that will definitely go down in history.
A year which has found many of us having to navigate choppy waters. Those unexpected challenges that have truly tested our shared humanity.
But it’s fair to say we haven’t all been sharing the same boat.
While some have been on a comfortable but rather restricted barge or even a luxurious yacht, others have been forced to cling to a makeshift life raft.
This variety of experience has exposed us to a whirlwind of emotions. Emotions reflected in a unique community photography project, supported by food retailer the Co-op.
As the year draws to an end, we’d like to share a story about a big-hearted baker working hard to put food on the table for those in need.
In more typical times, food is usually something that brings us together. The centrepiece cake at a birthday celebration, the candlelit date-night dinner, the summer garden BBQs with friends.
But this year, food has often been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The early days of stockpiling supplies, the increasing demands on food banks and the ongoing struggles of our favourite restaurants.
So we’d like to shine a light on a tasty tale of kindness from UK bakery Greggs.
The working from home dream has become a reality for millions in 2020.
You’ve chosen your preferred Zoom room and have a slick background ready for important online meetings.
You’ve perfected the smart top/pyjama bottoms newsreader look. Ideal for early morning video calls.
You’ve become accustomed to the cat sitting on your keyboard at a critical moment.
Who knew working from home could be so much fun?