Published: 08:00, 01 February 2017
| Updated: 10:04, 01 February 2017
The Sankey’s brand has been synonymous with the fish trade for decades.
It has two restaurants, a fishmongers and a wholesale division, all based in Tunbridge Wells.
Owner Matt Sankey admits his business was slow to adapt to online, which he and his business partner of nine years, Graeme Anderson, are keen to rectify.
“We missed a trick really,” he said.
“While all the supermarkets and fishmongers moved online, we just stayed as a retail shop.
“So in December we moved online and it gives us an opportunity to reach people who
would never come to Tunbridge Wells.”
The move has helped Sankey’s tap into the click-and-collect market, where commuters can pick up a nice piece of fish for dinner from its restaurants on the Pantiles and Mount Ephraim, even after its fishmonger has closed for the day.
"It is more expensive for us to buy abroad, but it is also driving up the price of domestic products because, for European merchants, British seafood is now relatively cheap...” - Matt Sankey, Sankey's
The expansion of its retail offer has been backed up by a well-developed wholesale operation, which uses a fleet of vans for deliveries to other restaurants and hotels.
Demand has been driven by an increasing appetite for fish among the population. The firm delivers up to a tonne of mussels per week.
Sourcing such vast quantities of fish is challenging, with daily deliveries from London’s Billingsgate market still an integral part of the supply, although the majority is now bought direct from suppliers.
The devaluation of the pound since the EU referendum has increased prices from non-British suppliers.
Mr Sankey said: “Sometimes we have to buy from the continent if they have the product and our guys have not. This is an issue at the moment due to the strength of the euro.
“It means it is more expensive for us to buy abroad, but it is also driving up the price of domestic products because, for European merchants, British seafood is now relatively cheap.”
They say the increased cost means there is no choice but to pass on price rises to customers, as margins in the industry are wafer thin.
Mr Anderson said: “If you take a knock on the price even for a short time you see its impact on the bottom line at the end of the week.
“Prices therefore fluctuate with the market.”
Price fluctuations are a very common occurrence, as the industry is highly affected by seasonal factors and weather.
Mr Sankey said: “In effect the industry is still all about hunting.
“There is no guarantee fishermen will come back after two or three days with a catch.
“They are not going to risk their lives in a storm, so supply dwindles when the weather is bad. People still want to eat fish and so prices rocket.
“You have to keep your eye on the ball the whole time. If you take a week off you will be completely lost.
“It is a fascinating industry to be in but it is completely unpredictable.”