Welcome to another interview in our series ‘COVID and My Digital Business’. If you haven’t already, catch up on our last interview with E-volve here.
This week we spoke to Inspirations, a business that many of you will know on the Wirral! We’re sure it’s at least a part of everyone’s Christmas calendar to take a trip here.
As a retail business that traditionally made most of its sales from people flocking through the door for it’s seasonal displays, so we wanted to know how they’d adapted since lockdown hit.
Hi! Could you introduce your business to our readers?
Inspirations Wholesale are a Wirral-based business who specialise in providing beautiful products for your home or business, as well as offering floral supplies. We source products from all over the globe to bring everything from homewares and furniture, to artificial flowers and home fragrance products to our customers.
We are best known for our Christmas range as we are one of the largest stockists of Christmas product lines in the North West, if not further afield. We can source almost anything with our vast global supply chain and Wirral has been our home from the very beginning.
One of the founders of Inspirations, Paul Reeves
What’s the story behind Inspirations, how long has the business been going?
Inspirations Wholesale was founded in 1999 by Husband and wife Paul & Kate Reeves. Paul worked engineering and Kate was an interior designer, they began the business as a side line project from the garage of their home.
They never dreamt the business would grow the scale it has. They have put their life’s work into establishing the business and now Inspirations is firmly a part of the Wirral way of life. With a 30,000 sq.ft. warehouse situated on Old Hall Road in Bromborough, full of beautiful products, Inspirations employs over 25 people from all over the Wirral and has grown from strength to strength for over 20 years.
What challenges has COVID brought to your business?
In truth as a result of COVID-19 the business took a dramatic downturn. We immediately felt the impact from the downfall in the amount of customers that were visiting our store. Our footfall began to drop as soon as news of COVID-19 reached the area and we were truly worried about our business’s future.
We are not a UK wide business, we are only based on the Wirral, so we rely solely on the local people from Wirral, Liverpool, Chester and North Wales to visit our store and support our business, but understandably now was the time to worry about safety and we felt the impact of that straight away. We closed our doors as we felt it was the safest way we could look after our staff and our customers and we began to trade solely online.
How have you adapted to these challenges with a digital strategy? Are you investing more time in social media?
Luckily for us we had already implemented a strategy to improve our social media presence and we had also recently invested in a brand new website mid-2019. With regards to adapting we had to sharpen our skill set in both these sectors. In fact we continue to do so.
We are trying our very best to improve the amount of products we can offer on our website. We have had some truly tremendous support from some amazing people on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook and for this we will be forever grateful. We now have a dedicated team working daily on our output and we hope to give people the vision from our photography that they would ordinarily get from our in store displays.
Our website www.inspirationswholesale.co.uk and our social media platforms have allowed us to stay in touch with those that loved us in the beginning but it’s also allowed us to show our ranges and our visions to many new people. This has been a lifeline for us to date and we hope to continue the grow this side of business and are improving our skill set every day.
Do you think the changes you’ve made will have a positive effect on your business going forward?
I honestly do, I’m not sure things will return back to what we remember pre-COVID – not least for some time anyway. Where we grow in strength and knowledge on social media platforms and web-based sales, we can only benefit from in the future.
We can reach a larger audience and show the whole of the country our visions and products which is amazing, so we hope this will have a very positive effect on our business. We believe this has added another string to our bow, but we are also aware that we may have lost one at the same time, with people less likely to attend the store as they used to. We anticipate things won’t get back to normal for a while at least, but we hope we can get back to trading very soon.
What advice can you give to businesses struggling to adapt?
My advice would simply be to utilise the freedom to share your products, visions and services through any online platform possible, and if you can, adapt your stock range or services to meet the demands of people. What people want now is no doubt very different to what they may have wanted, should we have never come across this pandemic. Social Media feels like scary place to get involved in at first but it is a new way of life.
It will be so important for you moving forward and whilst the opportunity to use these platforms for free is here, don’t miss out. We honestly grew our own fan base from 1500 followers to over 20,000 followers in just 6 months. That’s 20,000 incredible people who get to see our range and our offers every single time we post, and for this we are truly grateful. If you’re new to this social media world, or have only just started your own page, then find a business that is within your sector that has already established itself on social media platforms (because there is always one I promise) and look at how they post, how they put information out there and how they use imagery.
You can learn so much and ask for support from your customers, ask them to share your business and offers. We are here for Wirral and the local communities and since we have started out on social media they have really been there for us to.
What’s next? What’s the plan for when this is all over?
I’m sure that much like everyone else, we are looking forward to going back to some form of normality. We are anticipating a change in shopping behaviour, so we will be reacting to that by increasing our capacity to deal with online and telephone orders. We have so many products to share with our customer base, so we can’t wait to see people walking around our store again with all the safety and social distancing measures in place.
As a business we carry over 55,000 products at any one time so as you can imagine we can’t possibly share all that on the website alone. We have stunning homewares, realistic flowers and home fragrance products, as well as indoor & garden furniture to showcase from our store right now. We will put on some incredible offers on to help people get what they can just in time for the summer to arrive.
After this we will move swiftly onto Christmas, we absolutely love Christmas and this year our range will be bigger and better than ever before. With all of the following seasons to come completely covered in our stock range we hope to get back to normal as quickly as possible and can’t wait to share this journey with our amazing and loyal customer base.
As a business that has staff, how have you been managing? Have you kept staff busy or found a safe solution to help your business survive?
This is a very difficult time for all of us and we as a business are still navigating our way through the best solutions we can, we are currently implementing as much as we can to ensure staff and customer safety is our utmost priority.
At the moment we are only trading online so we have a very small task force in however we are working on plans for social distancing , time management and safe working for all . This is going to be challenging for all business types so we are always learning and always looking for the best solutions out there that we can implement into our business.
Tell us more about your work with the Johnson Foundation, now seems a great time for businesses to invest some time in charitable work.
First of all I’d like to say a personal thank you to the Johnston foundation for the work they do. They are an incredible group of people working hard every day and yes you are right. Now really is the time that we can all look at what we do for those around us. It was an honour to work with the Johnson foundation in producing the hampers for our local heroes and to think we had a small part to play in putting a smile on so many people’s faces is something we can be very proud off.
During these times of need so many people have really gone above and beyond to support the local community. These are incredible people and the more you learn of the good acts they have taken the more you want to be part of it. There’s no better feeling than to know you have helped someone in their time of need and the Johnson Foundation have allowed us to be part of this very special project.
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