Over the weekend, and even over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few comments commenting on how busy we are.
That “we’re lucky to be open” and must be doing well.
The reality is that the last few weeks have been …….. well.. they have been overwhelming, emotional and reactive!! And while they’ve def felt busy, that’s been due to the admin around shutting down a large part of the business and completely u-turning on how I provide retail goods to you, our customers.
But we look like we’re doing great and both you and I know, that when a business looks like it’s doing well, for some reason our community can sometimes not then feel the need to shop local or consider them for any purchases…
So last night, armed with paper, pen and with a HUGE cup of coffee, I finally sat down to take stock and work out the impact of lockdown (so far). As with anything on social media, it’s not always what it seems and this is the reality of where we are.
Taking Stock – The Impact of Lockdown (So Far)
Taking Stock – The ‘Great Stuff’
Firstly, it’s important to recognise all of the amazing, humbling and pretty pawsome things that have happened during the last three weeks, despite the circumstances:
- We value our customers and know exactly how important communication has been, particularly around any stock issues and our service changes. We’re continuing with daily update posts on our Facebook Page.
- Our online shop now has 224 products live and available to buy;
- All of the website stock has live stock levels for each product, making it super simple to order and taking away the admin for us too;
- We’ve raised an amazing £305 in donations for Animal Rescue Centre Arbroath (along with tears at the kindness of everyone who has donated!);
- We’ve taken 145 orders for click&collect/delivery with around 95% of those opting for delivery during the three weeks versus collection;
- Our average spend on retail via those deliveries is up by around 60% (see why below and potential future impact);
- We have sold to new dog food customers where people have chosen to shop small business and taken the time out to research and talk to us about their food choices;
- All the grooming team has been furloughed to secure 80% of their pay since 23rd March. They were paid in full at the end of March and will be paid at the end of April regardless of whether HMRC has reimbursed us. I’m extremely thankful to be in a position with cashflow to be able to do this;
- We launched The Great Milile’s Chew Off – and receiving lots of entries helping us build a fab resource for dog owners;
- We’ve put in place a trial with some regular customer of a new monthly payment plan. This allows them to pay for grooms and food with weekly or monthly payments to help spread the impact and align with their own pay dates. We’ll be making this available to all customers soon!;
- Our grant application was successful with Angus Council and has now been paid (as we receive small business rate relief);
- Normally we’d have a few customers post each week sharing photos of their furiends enjoying treats or post groom. I’m now seeing around 80% of our deliveries respond with a photo or social media tag and even just personal messages thanking us! Our exposure on social media has never been so good. This is so good to see at a time when we can’t be with our furiends but also helps share that we are very much still providing dog food and treats. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Taking Stock – What’s the Real Impact?
So great exposure on social media, orders coming in .. what does it mean when it comes to money and survival:
- Compared to a similar three-week period, our retail sales are still down. We are at 55% of our normal ‘footfall’ and 92% of the value of retail sales (excluding grooming) during the three weeks;
- The cost of those sales has increased, both in time to source (supplier issues), picking the items, increased cost in packaging to deliver and then fuel and time delivering which we do free of charge;
- We also saw more than a 50% decrease in retail sales in the two weeks before lockdown (food sales were up but treats/accessories all took a big hit);
- In addition to being down on retail sales, we have lost the equivalent of around 90 grooms during those three weeks. I do several grooms myself, without taking any salary from the shop to cover part of our overheads so the loss of those grooms is a direct hit to the ability to cover our costs plus the lost margin on the rest of the teams’ grooms;
- While we work directly with a number of our suppliers, you may be surprised to know that the margin on retail goods is not significant! So, unfortunately, the margin on these sales alone do not cover our normal monthly overheads;
- I’m acutely aware that while our average spend is up, some customers have stockpiled on dog food and we aren’t feeding our dogs anymore of their main food during this period. The impact on dog food sales is yet to come but is hiding the real impact of losing our passing day to day trade;
- We’ve had to stockpile on some brands/foods increasing the value of stock we hold and impacting cashflow. We pay all suppliers upfront and they are struggling so cannot expect them to be ok with not being paid!;
- While we’ve now received the business grant – part of this has already been swallowed up as I’ve had to replace the funds used over the last few weeks to keep afloat (taken from money set aside for our new premises). As a business, we cannot eat into these funds set aside as the business itself is not sustainable without a move into those new premises. To put it into context, the grooming tables we use cost circa £650 and thus the savings I’d put aside need to be kept aside to enable our move for building works, equipment and staffing.
- For the past two years, I have been able to support the shop and continually reinvest in stock, training, and equipment (and the new shop move) because I have a second business that pays me a small salary. As of March 23rd, this business also had to close but had taken no salary from the pets business over 2 years, you can imagine how HMRC is going to treat my tax returns for the self-employed support. It’s sometimes just the way things happen and know many who are receiving less support. But adds additional pressure to finances all around.
Taking Stock – Why Am I Sharing This?
While writing this, I am worried that our customers who have gone out of their way to support us either on social media or by spending what they can with us, feel that they haven’t done enough or not supported us. I want to be clear – you have. I can’t imagine the impact of the last three weeks if we hadn’t had your support.
Both I and team will never be able to thank you enough for this and I’m not sure you’ll ever know exactly how much it’s meant to all of us.
I am extremely grateful that we’re able to provide some services to our customers when so many have had to close. Many of whom are our friends.
Though, if I was to put emotion aside and pop my old Finance Director hat on… we are spending more money than we are earning every day. And there is no end date to this. No business owner can forecast the future or the financial implications right now. It makes decisions somewhat impossible.
But, for now, I have no plans to change what we are already doing. I honestly believe that as a high street-based business I have a role to play in continuing to support our customers and our local community.
So, I’ll keep doing that and continue to work hard to ensure that both you and my team have a business to come back to.
Even When It Looks Rosy – We Still Need Your Help
I have just one plea to you… please, please, please do not assume that if a local business looks to be doing well that they are financially safe and that they do not need your support.
Yes, we are busy.. and we are eternally grateful to have an opportunity to provide what our customers and furiends need.
But we are working so much harder right now, for nothing, purely to stay afloat and we need you to stick with us so that we’re here for you in the future.
We can and will make it through with your continued support.
Stay safe and hugs to all of our furiends #hope
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