Cumbria staff shortage threatens 167-year-old Grasmere Gingerbread

It has survived two world wars, a royal abdication, countless recessions, foot & mouth, Storm Desmond flooding, a major road closure for six months and the Covid pandemic but the world-famous Lake District delicacy Grasmere Gingerbread® is facing its toughest challenge yet - Cumbria’s crippling staffing shortage.

By Clare Kelly
Saturday, 10th July 2021, 12:30 pm
Joanne and Andrew Hunter of Grasmere Gingerbread Picture: Steven Barber

Joanne Hunter, co-director of the 167-year-old business, said: “We’ve always rewarded our staff with higher salaries and thoughtful working conditions.

“So much so, two members of staff have now been working for us for 32 years.”

However, with so many businesses in the Lake District competing for fewer people after Brexit and Covid, Grasmere Gingerbread® is now offering candidates for new jobs even more incentives.

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These include subsidised travel, higher hourly rates of pay, cash bonuses, health insurance, free parking, an extra day’s pay on birthdays and discounts on shopping and leisure

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For Mike Thompson, a former branch manager for a major bank who recently joined Grasmere Gingerbread® as a baker, the switch ticked all his boxes.

He said: “It is far less stressful, I have been warmly welcomed by my colleagues and there is a fantastic team spirit and banter that

carries you through the day.”

Joanne added: “However, we are now facing increased competition for staff from business across the board in the region who are really struggling to fill vacancies and are having to close some days of the week.

“We are working really hard to recruit staff and not disappoint visitors to our shop as they often make special one-off journeys from all over the country and if we were closed you can imagine their disappointment.

“We are normally only closed three days a year.

“The lockdowns have already forced us to shut our door for 33 weeks out of 54 and rely upon mail order so we feel we have been closed long enough. We did have customers turning up only to see our famous green door closed.

“We currently have five vacancies and are committed to staying open to keep production rolling for our customers whatever the difficulties behind the scenes.”