Pivots, pirouettes and silver linings

Image: Shutterstock.com
May 19 2020 by Nicola Hunt Print This Article

The coronavirus pandemic has already taken its toll on almost every business sector. But as the economy contracts, there are some businesses that are bucking the trend. Even companies whose business models were made obsolete overnight have managed to ride out the storm by taking creative and innovative approaches to re-purpose and re-package what they already do. Others are part of a trend, which has seen 'pandemic-proof' propositions such as take-away services, online education and training flourish as consumer behaviour has changed.

Here are some examples of UK businesses coming out on top during the crisis.

Cleaning up

ChargedUp is Europe's largest phone charging network, with thousands of charging stations in pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants and shopping malls. Founded in April 2017, these charging stations enable smartphone users to rent power banks by scanning a QR code through the ChargedUp app. It's a great idea, but when those the coronavirus meant that those venues suddenly closed, it put ChargedUp's entire business model in jeopardy.

ChargedUp's response was an abrupt and highly creative 'pivot'. Instead of a network of charging stations, they have quickly developed CleanedUp, a network of to hand sanitiser dispensers in supermarkets, train stations, pharmacies, food outlets, essential shops and shopping centres and hospitals.

"I was watching our revenue streams dry up overnight and was mindful that we have 30 fantastic employees, all with families to support. We all needed a way to get through this crisis." said Hugo Tilmouth, ChargedUp's CEO.

"I scheduled a meeting with our heads of department and asked them to bring researched ideas on how we could pivot to acclimatise to the current issues. The team threw ideas around and decided to use our existing equipment, but change the product."

Despite being in existence only a few weeks, CleanedUp has sold over 400 units and attracted interest from across Europe. And as Hugo Tilmouth says, there's also been another benefit. "Covid 19 has taught us to come together and never give up."

A chocolate hug

Morse Toad, based in Lymington in the New Forest, was in the fortunate position of already having a product that could be tailored to today's uncertain times.

The company creates personalised messages from Belgian chocolate. Personal photos and a message can be included in the box, which is small and slim enough to fit through almost any letterbox, which made it an ideal lockdown gift.

The company's founder, Dicky Broadhurst, immediately realised that an easy-to-deliver product based on the premise that little gestures can make a big impact, was just what people needed.

"Many moons ago, my Mum sent me some chocolate as a gesture of support during a charity bike ride Ė this provided the original inspiration for Morse Toad.

"When the Corona outbreak began to bite, it was obvious that it would be difficult for everyone to be separated from their loved ones. So we set up a dedicated web page so that people could create personal gifts. When you can't give someone a hug in person, then you opt for the next best thing: a chocolate hug."

A silver lining

Dashel saw sales of their stylish, recyclable, UK-made urban cycle helmets plummet in March as Europe went into lockdown and millions of people began to work from home.

"In March, our mainland European wholesale orders were cancelled," said Dashel's founder, Catherine Bedford. "Advertising on Instagram seemed to gain no traction. It seemed that consumer spending was grinding to a halt and with it, orders for our helmets."

But in April, things started to change. In the UK, with gym memberships cancelled, the lockdown rules on exercise meant that more people started to take up cycling as their daily exercise. Meanwhile, while many city-dwellers are also considering swapping their bus or tube commute for a bike once lockdown is over.

"Every day in April, as we saw sales increase and we wondered if it would continue," Catherine Bedford said. "UK wholesale picked up as the stores were allowed to stay open for servicing and our initiative to give away Helmets to NHS key workers cycling to work for the first time to avoid public transport, gave us the first real level of PR that we had ever had.

The mini-cycling boom has also meant that Dashel has brought forward the launch of its children's range as so many parents were enquiring about smaller sizes to protect their children when taking a turn around the local park.

"Now we are facing an exciting future as the government is putting budgets in place to ensure there is safe cycling to help people social distance on the way to work in future."