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COMMENT AND OPINION | Roy Saunders


ROY SAUNDERS OPINION


The TKC CEO looks back at how KBB retailers have adapted to new ways of working since the pandemic and urges suppliers to be flexible and supportive so they can continue to make the most of any opportunities


Adapt and thrive A


other for stress-testing business.


As painful as these times can be, it is always the case that valuable lessons are learned and new thinking and practices emerge as a result.


By understanding our customer base better, we know there is no one size fits all and how important it is to offer flexibility


The same has been true across our sector with retailers and suppliers across the board been thrown probably the biggest curve ball of their business lives. This has certainly been the craziest year of my entire career and yet, at the same time, the most rewarding. Amid the economic calamity, the home and KBB industry is however booming, and the home-centred living it is leaving in its wake, has offered significant opportunities to do business – provided you have been prepared to be open to change and adapt. It has not been the time for the ‘we have always done it this way’ mindset, in the belief that you can ride out the storm and customers will hang in there with you. Yes, they can show patience, loyalty and civility while you get to grips with things but ultimately they need you to support them and service their business needs. Those who have risen to the challenges by being resourceful and flexible to do business with are without doubt reaping the rewards over those who haven’t. More than a year on, the pandemic should not be a curtain to hide behind. It’s both a stress-test and an opportunity for businesses to adapt and take advantage of the nationwide ‘room boom’.


Technological investment Technology is of course key. And investing in being flexible in ways to interact with you is going to majorly pay off. I doubt there was hardly a retailer in the land who conducted a design presentation via Zoom pre-Covid, and now there are many who see it as a service that will stay. Zoom has gone from zero to hero in a nano-second and ‘lets do a Teams’ is more of a norm now than picking up the phone for that conversation. Work from home has changed our behaviours and a more flexible way of working, buying and living is here to stay. Many say that it has accelerated the adoption of technology and digitisation by five or six years and I think it has. Here again, this is a test for businesses to adapt and thrive or go the way of Kodak who never thought digital cameras would take off.


In our own business, in the space of just a few months, we have now developed multiple different ways for customers to trade with us. By understanding our customer base better, we know there is no one size fits all and how important it is to offer flexibility. We see regular transactions at night, early morning and weekends, as well as through the day as working patterns flex around the individual. With diminished options of leisure time and holidays, consumers have been keen for


20


s we welcome the phased re-opening of our lives supported by a successful vaccination programme, the year ahead fills us all with excitement for the things we have had to forgo on the home and work front. Some talk of the Covid year as being a cancelled year – what’s true is that it has been like no


instant gratification which we’ve seen through the likes of Amazon’s results and, to a lesser extent in our business, as off-the-shelf availability becomes more important. Five years ago, when I joined TKC, 30% of all orders were placed by fax but in the last year that has fallen to just 1-2% but still remains a choice for those who want it. Some are delighted to use online ordering immediately, while the old school cash-on-delivery style customers are converting to the payment portal. Whilst we’ve always had EDI capability, we’re now using it in earnest, it’s ideal for customers who’ve invested in their own systems and we can invoice through it too. Time is saved at the front and back ends for all of us.


Retailers are independent businesses and how they want to operate is up to them – our job as their suppliers is to provide technology and systems for them to be more efficient. Helping customers develop a slicker business infrastructure gives them more time to focus on other key areas such as training, design skills, marketing and selling.


What we all know is that consumers are craving the people-centred retail experience and are placing a renewed value on supporting independent businesses in their locality. As we experience the sheer joy of some new freedoms again, KBB retailers should be busy with eager consumers and it’s up to us as suppliers to support them in maximising these opportunities.


· August 2021


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