February to April has proved a very strong period for Cox & Cox, now in its 20th year of trading, starting the year well and with excellent customer KPIs, further building on growth of 75% last year and putting the Frome-based homeware business in a strong position to continue performance throughout the year.
Key performance numbers, relative to Q1 last year, also include a 101% increase in orders and sales growth of 257% and 235% across February and March respectively.
CEO Richard Bell attributes the strong start in Q1 to two main factors: “We had a very strong Christmas, both in terms of customer retention and acquisition, and so started the season with 70% more active customers than last year. In addition, we substantially grew the Outdoor range and bought deeper on stock. The paucity of supply elsewhere in the market meant that we sold through our initial buys very quickly, pushing us well past budget and forecast.”
These successes haven’t come without issue, but with foresight and a clear strategy for solutions, the business has overcome many hurdles. Stock availability due to over performance and global supply issues were the main problems to overcome. Covid-19 continued to cause delays, with many overseas factories working at reduced capacity, as well as experiencing a shortage of many raw materials, leading to longer lead times. This, coupled with a worldwide shortage of containers & vessels, delays at UK ports and latterly the Suez blockage, led to an unprecedented set of events causing stock challenges and increased shipping costs.
Bell explains: “We have absorbed the increasingly inﬂated shipping costs throughout rather than pass them on to our customers, and will continue to do so. Getting straight answers on expected delivery dates is proving challenging, and while there is frustratingly little that we or any other retailer can do to ﬁx the problem, we are doing everything we can to review and improve options for our customers on a daily basis. Alternative arrival ports and equipment types are all in play and we will continue to send regular updates on expected delivery dates to our customers.”
All departments traded up in Q1. Outdoor Living sales started well ahead of the traditional selling period, with customers ordering early, driven by the fear of missing out due to the much-publicised shortage of Outdoor sets across all retailers. Customers were ordering outdoor sets and parasols in February, even when it was snowing.
The trend for daily outdoor living is here to stay. To reﬂect this shift, certain ranges were expanded with great success – including statement seating, outdoor rugs & textiles and shade & shelter solutions.
- Outdoor Furniture +292% YOY
- Outdoor Accessories +207% YOY
- Indoor Furniture also remains strong with sales +232% YOY
- Some of the biggest YOY uplifts are in stocked and made to order sofas, along with ofﬁce desks and chairs as customers continue to workfrom
- After a successful soft launch last year, 8 new shades were added to the debut own-brand Paint
- The Kids range has expanded to include over 100 products.
Looking forward, Bell continues, “After such a strong start to the year, our focus remains on getting stock to our customers as swiftly as we can. We anticipate that Covid and a shortage of raw materials will continue to impact some product lead times, and that shipping and port delays will remain an issue for the next few months. To mitigate against this, we have placed orders with suppliers earlier than usual to reduce stock delays and improve in-stock position, building up stock levels in far greater depth, and across more product lines.”