Although we might be getting more used to the ‘new normal’ way of life, clearly the pandemic has created a uniquely difficult situation.
For us, our UK trade business really did fall away dramatically throughout March and April as workshops closed. Then, as our converters were allowed to get back to work, we saw a dramatic increase in sales for the last 2 weeks of May. It really was heartening for me to see the names of our long standing customers appearing in the order list once again.
Fortunately for us though...at the same time as our trade sales fell of a cliff, we started to see some hopeful signs as our direct retail orders slowly started to grow. There were 2 or 3 weeks initially when it all went quiet, but very quickly things started to pick up again. So much so, that by the end May we were busier than we have ever been! Lockdown for many meant they had the free time to crack on with their conversions. Our German retail site has also gathered momentum over the last 4 months and is really going from strength to strength.
It has been really great to see so many fantastic campervan conversions come to life, so please continue to share these with us :)
Working at Home
For the Kiravans Office Team...we all simply relocated from our office desks to our kitchen tables! Working from home was always a 'thing' for some members of the team, but at first it was a big change with everyone trying to work, homeschool and look after family and friends. I certainly found that to get the right balance took a bit of effort but on the whole, it ran relatively smoothly for everyone by reducing our office hours and just being a lot more flexible in our expectations.
The biggest challenge for us was getting the customer service team up and running remotely, but our excellent technology allows us all to connect in realtime with customers and team mates alike. Our phone system is an internet based one so we can pick up and transfer calls from our desk phones or mobile phones, it makes no difference whether we are at a desk or not. Our website runs on Shopify so is accessible to us from anywhere...we can add products, update stock levels and create orders without having to be on site. Our customer service system (for live chat, email and our social channels) is also cloud based, so again, it makes absolutely no difference whether we are office based or not. And we use Xero accounting system which is another web based system so can be accessed remotely. Pretty lucky, given the circumstances!
We set ourselves up a regular 10:30 AM coffee meet up on Zoom for anyone who was available - it proved really good at keeping us all in touch with one another. Without it things would have been much tougher - and we're still zooming for morning coffee every day, just to stay in touch. Although to be honest I tend to only make it along on a couple of days a week - 10:30 seems to be the most productive time in this house to do the Google Classroom Maths.
90% of our office staff still sit in front of their computers at home...but it's business as usual now, regardless of where our desks may be!
So what did we learn..?
Our team will tell you that working from home, when you have well established systems in place is really not too difficult! Yes....sure, it's lonely sometimes, and trying to work at the same time as home schooling is nigh on impossible!... but for all that, the systems we have in place are incredibly resilient and really meant that we could carry on almost as normal which has been truly amazing! I am just so grateful to my entire team for all the juggling, early mornings, late evenings, and imaginative ways they have found to work in this new environment
For those of your who read my weekly business updates when we first went into lockdown, you'll be aware that our warehouse had less staff over this period due to social distancing, shielding and isolation measures. Of course this had a real affect on our fulfilment team, but thankfully everyone came through this OK and were able to get back up to full strength again.
This period was probably the most difficult for us as we were simply unable to keep up with packing orders fast enough. Our 'bubble' policy meant that we did not bring in extra staff to cover the shortages, preferring to just keep our team self contained. But, they worked like absolute troopers and soon caught up as more staff returned to work.
Whilst we are all very accustomed to getting free delivery with Amazon Prime, and whilst it would be great to be able to offer you free delivery all year round, it's just not achievable for most 'normal' businesses like us as a long term measure. We end up losing out on smaller order values, so keeping our free standard delivery threshold at £89 is still important to us... but, of course we'll keep on reviewing this, as we all naturally want to offer the best prices and service we possibly can.
Deliveries are now back to normal including express deliveries within 1-2 days, so if you need anything urgent just give us a shout.
So...in a nutshell, this is what has been happening here at Kiravans over the last 4 months! We hope you found it interesting :)
I fully appreciate that there's still a long way to go, but we'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for your ongoing patience and support and you'll be hearing from me again very soon :)