How we’re surviving Covid-19
For Best Beds Direct, in our first year of trading, it’s been particularly challenging. No retailer – us included – holds unlimited stock. Within days of the lockdown announcement, the large majority of products that we usually offer drastically reduced. Suppliers couldn’t update us fast enough, so we couldn’t update our website quickly enough either. Some customers understood and waited patiently for their order, or swapped their order for a product that was available sooner. Others lost their rag and cancelled altogether. Cancelled orders at a time like this are a nightmare for small businesses - they affect cash flow and result in heaps of admin (made more complicated by banks and PayPal having different operating procedures to deal with the unprecedented demand).
In some instances, it wasn’t until we placed an order that we learned suppliers were having problems too – these being a shortage of raw materials and a drastically reduced delivery service. Many factories are closed, with production workers furloughed or laid off, and the government restrictions on travel don’t help either.
Where products were available, delivery became complicated. Delivery companies were either closed entirely, or operating under significantly reduced working hours (due to having reduced staff numbers). This increased the lead times on products – often at short notice. Some deliveries have taken two, three, even four times longer to get to customers than usual.
To frustrate matters further, the contacts we’d usually get in touch with, to obtain updates on stock and lead times, have been largely unavailable also (either due to being furloughed, laid off, working reduced hours, and/or on sick leave).
With the above in mind, you won’t be surprised to hear we’ve had notable increases in the volume of calls, emails and voicemails coming through to us – at all times of day and night. After all, most people are at home with a lot of extra time on their hands.
Some customers sought to break lockdown rules by requesting private appointments at our showroom (not OK). Some queried why we can’t provide clarity on the availability of stock and/or delivery dates (both are beyond our control). Others were annoyed that delivery drivers weren’t allowed to deliver products beyond the front door (social distancing requirements don’t allow for this).
Some lost patience entirely and cancelled their order. This is neither good for them, nor for us – and in any event, they’re guaranteed to face the exact same challenges with any other retailer at the moment.
On a more personal note, working hours aside, lockdown has given us some time to reflect. We’ve enjoyed spending more time at home with our family, cooking nice dinners and watching light-hearted TV shows. We’ve had ‘movie nights’ on the sofa, planted flowers outside in pots, and held spontaneous parties for two in the kitchen to some good old reggae music.
Through it all, we’ve tried our best to continue providing exceptional service to every customer - even if we have been reduced to a one-man band operating from the sofa! We’ve responded to every call, voicemail and email; provided updates to advise customers of any changes to stock or delivery times where possible; hand-cut the last of our fabric swatches for customers and used our exercise allowance to post them, using the last of our personal stamps. Many customers have been incredibly patient and understanding, during what can only be described as an extraordinary time. They’ve kept our family business going, and for that we'll be forever grateful.
Looking ahead, we’re not sure what the rest of 2020 holds for us. We will reopen the showroom – but not until we’re sure it’s the right time for us and our customers. Until then, we're online and we’d love to hear from you (by call, email or chat room) if you’ve any queries.
Keep safe - and thank you for your custom.