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Scaling in a Crisis: How PetShop.co.uk Handled a 300% Increase in Demand

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By James Nunns, head of content, EMEA, Oracle Netsuite

 

Every business felt the impact of COVID-19 differently. For many, it meant switching to a new working from home environment. Others had to find a new way of operating. Some were faced with unprecedented demand that threatened to cripple supply chains and their ability to stay in business.

 

When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson encouraged people to stay at home and shop online on March 15, it triggered a huge spike in pet food sales as worried pet parents across the country stocked up on supplies.

 

PetShop.co.uk, an online retailer of pet food and supplies, stepped up accordingly.

 

“We’ve gone from packing and shipping 1,000 orders a day to 4,000 orders a day,” founder and CEO Adam Taylor told NetSuite over a Zoom call.

 

“We went from having one shift, seven days a week, to being open 24 hours, seven days a week and employed from 25 to 75 people in the space of two days. Looking back, it was definitely madness.”

 

The 300% increase in sales lasted more than two weeks, and months later, the company is still seeing demand above pre-COVID-19 conditions.

 

Staying open for pet parents

 

Many types of ecommerce companies encountered high demand for their products due to COVID-19, with some struggling to stay operational or being forced to close their websites as they worked to gain control of a buckling supply chain. It was not so with PetShop.co.uk.

 

“I guess we made a decision very quickly to stay open,” said Taylor.

 

PetShop.co.uk had been growing at about 50% year-on-year for the past five years and is predicting 100% like-for-like growth on the last year. Two factors gave it the confidence to stay open: The company had the warehouse space in which to expand, and it had cloud infrastructure that it could trust in NetSuite.

 

“Truth be told, it was very stressful for the first two or three days to adjust. Once we found our rhythm, it was quite seamless,” said Taylor of staying open amid pandemic demand.

 

“In essence, all we really had to do was to buy some licenses and barcode scanners and we were operational to triple our capacity. There was the training element too, but it was incredible to see how effective, quick and seamless it was to increase our business.”

 

NetSuite made the transition financially feasible, he added: “The cost difference to deal with that volume of sales has not been significant.”

 

Managing supply chain and inventory

 

With the surge of demand across ecommerce came challenges with managing the supply chain and the availability of stock. For PetShop.co.uk, it became a “major competitive advantage” to be able to rely on a smart ordering system that could ensure a constant supply of its key product lines, according to Taylor.

 

By using ‘smart’ functionality in NetSuite, PetShop.co.uk could identify sales patterns, combine this data with growth rates and allow the system to automatically keep stock at the right levels. At the same time, the system secured PetShop.co.uk’s cash flow and ensured the company wasn’t overexposed to stock that wasn’t selling.

 

Finding time to innovate

 

PetShop.co.uk was not only able to expand its selling capacity and quickly hire new employees during a pandemic, but it also used data to improve the customer experience.

 

One of the big headaches for those trying to get their shopping in at the height of COVID-19 shutdowns was not knowing the availability of products or when stock was likely to be available again. PetShop.co.uk began sharing stock availability data, such as when stock is due to be delivered, on its SuiteCommerce website.

 

Aside from aiding behind-the-scenes, “knowing when stock is due to be delivered can even improve the front-end of your business and capture more sales and retention by delighting customers,” Taylor said.

 

By his own admission, Taylor didn’t think about the importance of data when he was setting up the company.

 

Now, it’s one of PetShop.co.uk’s USPs and a core revenue driver.

 

Having connected processes in a cloud-based system enables the company to plan for and react to changing customer requirements, such as increased order amounts or more proactive subscription ordering. It also helps the brand respond to market dynamics, manage cash flow and expand where needed.

 

With many employees working from home, PetShop.co.uk was able to ensure productivity levels remained high using NetSuite’s dashboard metrics. Taylor and the leadership team now share dashboards that allow teams to see how many customer services cases they have responded to, how long phone calls last, and how many orders had been cancelled and created.

 

Doing so “creates a fun element to inspire [the team] to achieve, but it also creates a great peer group mentality where no one is wanting to let down the group,” he said. “… The key was being able to use the cloud to its full benefit and have people work remotely.”

 

Now that the spike in orders due to COVID-19 has subsided, the company has reduced its workforce to 50.

“It just shows the power of NetSuite that we were able to expand and contract so easily both ways,” said Taylor.

 

To find out more about PetShop.co.uk’s story, check out our on-demand event with Founder and CEO Adam Taylor from July 2020.

 

We discussed how his business processes, strategy and financial management have enabled the company to scale during recent interruptions to business and shifting buyer behaviours.

 

Watch the event here.

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