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Greater Manchester businesses respond to COVID-19 challenge

Over the past few months a number of local businesses has diversified to support their communities and the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

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In the past couple of months, the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has forced businesses across all sectors to respond and adapt quickly to the evolving situation. Businesses had to rethink and redesign their business models to continue operating under the new restrictions. For some, this meant moving their operations online and switching their workforce to remote working, whereas for essential businesses the change revolved primarily around new measures and processes on-site to ensure the health and safety of workers.

In addition to adapting internal processes, many businesses needed to modify and sometimes completely reimagine their product or service offer to continue trading in the current environment. We have seen a rise in art and crafts schools developing at-home kits, gyms and fitness centres offering virtual classes, events professionals creating virtual experiences, bars and pubs delivering ingredients for virtual tasting sessions, cinemas providing confectionary boxes for sale, escape rooms designing downloadable at-home mystery games, as well as manufacturers adapting their production lines to develop and supply medical products.


Local manufacturing response

“These are unprecedented times and it’s truly appreciated when local businesses have gone above and beyond to help us all in such a pro-active and generous way.”

Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor

Since the beginning of the pandemic, manufacturers across Greater Manchester have actively supported their local communities and the NHS, shifting production and diversifying to supply critically needed personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies.

One of the businesses responding to the urgent need for PPE, was Salford based food packaging manufacturer, Caterline, who decided to start developing recyclable protective visors from recycled food grade plastic.

Gary Briscoe, Managing Director, at Caterline, said:

“I had been following the regular media updates and was aware that in spite of a few companies in our sector already manufacturing protective visors there was still a shortage and I felt it was something we could help with”.

Gary approached specialist manufacturing advisors, Geoff Crossley and Nick Brandwood seeking advice and guidance regarding priorities and timescales. Gary said:

“I have worked with the Hub for many years on a number of growth projects and contacted them immediately for support. I wanted current advice regarding healthcare supply chain priorities and shortages, specification requirements and the most appropriate routes to market”.

He added:  “We had machinery sitting idle and stock of raw materials and it was great that we could put them to good use and help in some small way during these challenging times”.

Elsewhere, gin manufacturers including GC Business
Growth Hub client Zymurgorium, switched production and started converting their alcohol stocks into hand sanitiser.  

A Global Scale-up client, Didsbury Gin, also produced one
million bottles of sanitiser to supply key public service providers across Greater Manchester, including the NHS, Greater Manchester police, local fire services, and other
care providers, including homeless shelters.

Founder of Didsbury Gin, Liam Manton, said: “Our
company is born and bred in Manchester, and we’re in the fortunate position that we can utilise our supply chains and give back to the Mancunian community ”.


 Tarsier Spirit changed the distillery from gin production to hand sanitiser production, having the first bottles being produced in two days

The first batch of Zymitizer sanitising liquid from Zymurgorium was donated to every Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Station in the city-region

Stockport based gin distillery and client, Tarsier Spirit, also joined the cause after being contacted by a local GP surgery in Manchester in need of hand sanitiser. After delivering 750 litres to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to help protect local front-line workers, the company further donated sanitiser to Marie Curie nurses, the fire service, NHS trusts and social care workers who were unable to source any at the time. Wanting to support front-line staff on a national level, the company of two, also partnered with a global e-commerce retailer who were procuring sanitiser for medical institutions on a not-for-profit basis.

As bars and restaurants had to close their doors, the Tarsier Spirit team had to rethink its offering and routes to market. The business pivoted to online orders, partnering up with the Gin to My Tonic platform, which allowed them to reach and sell to their base of followers. Seeing the severe impact of lockdown on the local hospitality sector has led to the business collaborating with independent venues, helping them bring in much needed revenue to survive.

Tim Driver, co-founder and Master Distiller of Tarsier Gin said:

“Our brand is about giving back; it is in our DNA. When the opportunity to do something to help closer to home arose, it was an easy decision to make. It also allows us to keep working and every day that we come to the distillery, we feel like we are making a small difference and have a purpose in this global fight”.


Find out how you and your business can help efforts to tackle the coronavirus crisis, here.

How can you help?
Guidance for manufacturers Guidance for manufacturers

Find all guidance relating to COVID-19 here.

Click here
Case studies Case studies

Read our COVID-19 related case studies here.

Click here
Supply Chain Strategies Supply Chain Strategies

Virtual workshop to help SMEs with the challenges COVID-19 has presented.


More information is available on the UK Government’s Coronavirus Business Support website. For more personalised advice call us on: 0161 237 4128 or email us at:


Janine Smith

Janine Smith, Director of Business Growth

The first female director to lead the GC Business Growth Hub, Janine has been with the Hub for the last eight years.

Janine first joined Greater Manchester’s GC Business Growth Hub in 2013 as a Start-up Manager, before being promoted to Head of Growth Services and latterly, Head of Specialist Services, leading the Hub’s sector specialist and growth teams.

Janine is an experienced operational and development director specialising in managing successful multi-million-pound contracts and programmes, within both the public and private sectors.

Janine started her career in sales and marketing for a national property development company before moving into teaching where she taught Business and Management Studies. 16 years ago, Janine entered the world of business support where she was initially a workforce development advisor before moving into leadership roles with Business Link and later a Lancashire based enterprise agency.


The information provided is meant as a general guide only rather than advice or assurance. GC Business Growth Hub does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information and professional guidance should be sought on all aspects of business planning and responses to the coronavirus. Use of this guide and toolkit are entirely at the risk of the user. Any hyperlinks from this document are to external resources not connected to the GC Business Growth Hub and The Growth Company is not responsible for the content within any hyperlinked site.

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