Spotlight on SMEs – Seekology

4 April 2020

As we have seen small and medium businesses being most impacted by the coronavirus lockdown yet often being the most inspiring in the way they manage their businesses and support their teams, suppliers and local communities, we decided to shine a spotlight on a few we’ve come to love over the past few months.

Next up is Rebecca Saunders, the founder of an incredible Beauty + Wellbeing retailer Seekology. Seekology searches for the most unique and creative beauty enterpreneurs and showcases a chosen few every month. They share their stories, support them by running a varied programme of events to allow them to connect with their customers directly and learn from other fellow entrepreneurs. Truly inspiring manifestation of collaboration and community.

Here is what Rebecca shared with us about how she and her team are managing in these challenging times.

1. What actions (and when) have you decided to take in reaction to the coronavirus crisis? For example, have you changed your communication or delivery policies?

We decided to close our popular pop-up shop in Richmond in advance of the government’s look down despite some very strong sales in the last few days. It felt like the right thing to do for our team and customers at the time. We’re now trying to be sensitive to the challenges both our customers and brands might be facing at the moment in our communications – finding the right approach can be challenging.

2. What impact does it seem to have on your business till now?

Aside from the shift to an online-only business, the mix of products our customers are buying definitely changed in the last few days of our pop-up store. Hand washes and hand creams became our most popular products, for obvious reasons! Now that we are trading solely online, we’ve started to see much more interest in well-being accessories for use in the home, such as these beautiful and unusual yoga mats by Willow Yoga.

3. How are you trying to take advantage of this time in self-isolation?

It’s a rather unexpected opportunity to take stock of the business and refocus on both a personal and professional level. I haven’t personally had a lot of time to sit around watching cat videos – with a toddler and a newborn in the house as well as running Seekology there’s always plenty to do! It has been lovely to connect with old friends via video calls and the creation of a new community on our local WhatsApp group; despite the fact that we can’t physically meet we have connected over a virtual pub quiz, rainbows in people’s windows and genuine support for those who are fully isolating I hope this community focus will provide a lasting reminder as to what’s really important to us all.

4. What brands are inspiring you in how they are reacting to this crisis?

Running a retail brand at the moment is pretty brutal; we’ve already seen some high-profile administrations and there will be more to come. It’s been interesting to see the differing approaches from brands. One that I’ve always admired is Timpson; as a brand they empower employees to make the right decisions for their customers, and also pro-actively hire ex-offenders and offer fantastic benefits, leading to great staff retention. Their honest, timely communication and commitment to their staff has been inspiring as they have closed their physical doors.

5. What are you working on at the moment to prepare your business for the changed consumer behaviour following self-isolation?

It’s early days so far; we are working to support and build our community of both customers and brands. As a marketplace for independent Beauty + Wellbeing brands, we feel a responsibility to help them grow and much of our activity in store centred around this. Many of the brands we work with are very new to market and their owners may not benefit from the various schemes set out by the government. So we are working on how to amplify their stories and set up our website for increased customer demand, whenever that comes.

6. Any other comments, predictions, inspirations?

I’m expecting that a significant proportion of consumers will shop much more thoughtfully after restrictions are lifted. Firstly, this will be because belts have tightened due to many people facing reductions in their income. Secondly, after a period of lower consumption I expect many people to start to question what they really need – particularly when it comes to luxury items or apparel. Finally, this crisis will have accelerated the change in the role of high streets and ecommerce. Many high streets will never regain their role as customers will have shifted a higher proportion of their spend online, especially in categories that hitherto had not seen huge online penetration. So we’ll see an accelerated shift in the role of physical retail as a showcase for digital sales as well as new uses for retail spaces that are no longer required.

Image Source: Caulder Moore