'We’ll never fully revert to the way life was pre-Covid': How Scots firms are adapting due to the pandemic
From, say, whisky firms switching to making hand sanitiser, to clothing firms debuting their range of face masks, and restaurants switching to takeaways, few of us can have escaped the fact that many firms have had to readjust their strategy – or find themselves among those forced to pull down the shutters for the last time.
A new survey has found that 71 per cent of British company bosses claim to have changed their business model in response to the effects of Covid-19. Royal Mail, which is behind the survey, said the urgent need to adapt “has been fairly consistent across companies of all sizes and across all industries”.
A whole host of Scottish firms have pivoted their strategy. There is, for example, Duns-based textile company ScotlandShop, which has launched a virtual appointment service and revived revenues with its face mask sales, and Edinburgh-based travel firm Flavours Holidays, which moved from trips abroad to offering online courses and activity holidays in Scotland.
For some the changes are temporary, and others more sustained. This is against the backdrop of Royal Mail finding that more than half of business owners believe their adjustments will be implemented on a long-term basis, while a quarter anticipate that they will be permanent.
The importance of businesses pivoting has in fact been deemed so important that it has been given its own category at the likes of the 2020 Great British Entrepreneur Awards. One of the Scottish regional finalists was John Robertson, chief executive and founder of Shoply, which enables customers to get home deliveries from convenience stores.
It had started out as Drinkly, focused on delivering alcohol, but Mr Robertson told The Scotsman that it turned to a convenience as a “natural progression”. He said: "Sales on Shoply grew by over 500 per cent in the first six weeks of lockdown. We added up to £5,000 a day in additional sales to our retail partners, the average online basket spend three times that of in store and many of our partners reported seeing regular sales come through from people who had never visited the shop before.”
He also said the firm was now much more efficient, having totally removed itself from the physical transaction, and the retailer responsible for fulfilling and delivering the order. “The Covid crisis has impacted all life to an extent that we’ll never fully revert to the way life was pre-Covid,” he said.
Shoply has benefited from the big push to working from home, a trend that has also provided ripe fruit for firms such as homeowner-focused architect Hoko, which has been enjoying its busiest year yet amid a 300 per cent jump in home office enquiries.
Founder Danny Campbell said: “As a fast-growing start-up, we’ve moved quickly to lean in to that opportunity … as it has become more apparent that the shift to working from home isn’t going away any time soon, more and more people have looked for ways to create separation between their family lives and their work lives. A lot of these projects are coming to fruition now and it’s amazing to see how much happier our clients are in their home than they were a few months ago.”
Move to virtual
And with many people looking to relax at the end of the working week – or day, even – one drinks company has been toasting its decision to move online. Aberdeen-based Boozy Events, which specialises in cocktail-making classes and pop-up cocktail bars, introduced virtual experiences on the back of the pandemic.
This has seen it send out the relevant kits to thousands of customers, both consumers and organisations, including American Express, Accenture and Premier Oil, across more than 15 countries including Germany, Spain, Greece, India, and the US.
Founder Cameron Esson said the move to virtual events “forced us to quickly retrain our staff to a completely new business model and way of operating” – and demand let the firm retain staff and in fact expand the team.
Fellow drinks firm Magnum Cream Liqueur, whose products are crafted and bottled in Edinburgh using single malt Scotch whisky and cream, billed as a rival to Baileys, has also been realigning its strategic crosshairs. Amid the on trade being hampered by the pandemic, the firm is developing its export strategy.
Director Lee Schofield, said: “We’re now setting our sights on growing distribution and volume in Ontario and plan to launch Magnum in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, as well as in South Africa.”
Royal Mail said that one in five retail businesses has introduced a new delivery option in response to the outbreak, and The Scottish Bee Company, which sells, say, honey and beeswax candles, is one firm to have adjusted how its products get into consumers’ hands.
Co-founder Suzie Millar said its online shop is now geared up to ship across Scotland, the rest of the UK, northern Europe and the US within seven days, “but we’re already developing our export activity in the USA, Europe and the Far East by focusing on the quality, provenance, heritage and health benefits of our Scottish heather and blossom honey”
"It’s good to know that even during a global pandemic that we’re doing our bit to help drive Scotland's position as a global leader for healthy and functional food,” she said.
Nick Landon, chief commercial officer at Royal Mail, praised the postal firm for helping keep the wheels of ecommerce turning. He said: “It is truly inspiring to see how British businesses have risen to the not insignificant challenges they have faced, and have adapted to rapidly changing customer needs.”
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