KBB retailers: the lessons a year of Covid taught us

Since the first lockdown, the way that many KBB retailers run their businesses has changed forever.

Our brain trust of kbbreview100 retailers were asked to look back over the past year since the first lockdown in March 2020 to see what business lessons they had learnt.

Adapting quickly due to the changing times was a common lesson learnt by our panel of retailers. John Pelosi of Caldicot Kitchen and Bathroom Centre said: “Expect the unexpected! And just when you think you’ve anticipated the unexpected, expect a bit more unexpected.”

Jim Geddes of JS Geddes in Kilmarnock thought similarly: “Always expect the unexpected. Learn to adapt systems and working practices to suit the requirements – be adaptable to change.”

Similarly, Kate Holderness, sales and marketing director of Urban Kitchens, said: “I’ve learnt to adapt quickly to situations, be it staff, showroom, supply issues or lockdown. It’s no good panicking, you have to act fast and responsibly in order to keep yourself in the game and keep the customer happy.”

There was a lot of panic over the past year, from panic buying of toilet paper to knee-jerk responses in legislation, but many retailers came out of the other side having made sure they reacted rationally and did not panic.

Paul Ballantyne of Andover Bathroom Collections said: “I realised that the business and I can adapt even through scary, surreal times. Douglas Adams and Corporal Jones said it best – ‘Don’t panic’. It has made me more assertive and I also firmly believe you will only ever be as good as the people you surround yourself with.”

Luke Wedgbury of Coalville Kitchens had a similar philosophy. He told kbbreview: “The biggest lesson to learn is that, in a crisis, it is imperative to respond and not react. I saw so many business owners panic and set about doing things that ultimately cost them in the long run.”

With so many things out of people’s control, Nick McNally, of Kitchens by Nick McNally in Edinburgh, is a believer in action rather than words. He said: “[It taught me] how important it is to adapt to situations outwith your control and to be a doer in a world full of talkers.”

As stores were closed and virtual appointments were retailers’ only option, many had to get to grips with new technology. Russ Deacon Home Improvements in Eastbourne used this time to create online videos to help guide and communicate with their customers, as well as learning how to do virtual appointments via Zoom.

Anne Deacon said: “I have increased my networking on Zoom and it has helped my confidence, as I was quite new to the world of networking prior to lockdown. I have also uploaded videos to our website, which I wouldn’t have been confident enough to do before.”

The Tap End learnt to appreciate their staff more and make them feel more secure in their jobs. Co-owner Justine Bullock said: “Here at The Tap End, we have always striven to be excellent employers. Covid and the various lockdowns have really proven to us that we are. Our staff were always at the forefront of our mind when making decisions, and navigating this tumultuous time.

“So much so that when people were making redundancies and letting people go, we wanted to offer security and boost moral, so we actually issued pay rises and bonuses! To have an opportunity to practise what we preach was really rewarding to myself and Lynda as directors and we know that our staff felt safe and worked really hard for us, and continue to do so as a result.”

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