Four tips for business growth through a crisis, like coronavirus

Despite selling a luxury product, independent business Devon Duvets not only survived, but grew through the coronavirus pandemic. How?

Is a duvet an essential purchase? For most, probably not. And yet, despite a consumer focus on buying essentials during the coronavirus lockdown, family owned Devon Duvets, thrived. But how?

Husband and wife duo, Pauline and Dick Beijen, employ 14 people to create high quality products, made in Devon. The attraction for many customers is exactly this, that the products are high quality, made in England and made to last.

Even these great credentials alone weren’t enough though. Like every other independent business, the people behind Devon Duvets work hard every minute to keep things going, and to grow.

After the initial shock of lockdown, they reported an improvement in revenue, year on year. And they were even busier mid-lockdown than they were the previous autumn, which is traditionally their peak trading season. So, why are they doing so well?

1. Building solid relationships with retailers

Devon Duvets did see a drop off in revenue at the start of lockdown. However, a large high street and online department store had placed a couple of orders, which they honoured, and which Pauline said, “kept us going, to be honest”.

This lifeline was critical at a time when consumers were focused almost solely on how and where to get essentials. But it’s the company’s groundwork and tenacity that continues to see it succeed.

2. Being constantly proactive

You need to be constantly proactive in your business, because hard work you put in can often help you see improvements later down the line

Pauline Beijen, co-owner, Devon Duvets

For two years running (in 2019 and 2020), they were awarded ‘The Best Summer Duvet’ by The Independent. Pauline believes they’re now reaping the rewards of the publicity that generated. Her advice is to take every opportunity, and keep up with the latest technology, because you don’t know when you might see the benefit, and because you don’t know when you might need those benefits the most.

The dynamic duo is hell bent on taking the business in other directions, too. Not even a global pandemic could stop their ambition, and the couple launched a new business - THREE - during lockdown, as well as a limited-edition Alpaca range into Devon Duvets, and a collaboration with the NHS that looks at ways in which they can support them with the production of protective gowns.

Devon Duvets is not alone in this approach. According to Barclaycard Business research*, 64% of SMEs are planning to invest more in their business over the next 12 months. 

In a crisis, there are two ways to go. You fold up or you say: ‘how can I be positive and proactive and push forward?’ It’s when the character of a business really comes out

Pauline Beijen, co-owner, Devon Duvets

3. Keeping up with technology to reach new customers

Dick believes that because Devon Duvets has always accepted digital payments only – no cash payments – they’ve been well positioned in the cashless movement that was no doubt accelerated by coronavirus. According to Barclaycard Business data, the total volume of contactless transactions processed by us grew by almost 140% between 4th July 2020 (when many shops and restaurants reopened following lockdown) and the following weekend1.

By already being well set up to take payments over the phone and via our website, we’re in a good place now that demand for cashless payments is rapidly increasing

Dick Beijen, co-owner, Devon Duvets

Choices of ways to pay is important for Devon Duvets when it comes to reaching new markets. Not just for those people who have enough money to spend £150 on a duvet without thinking about it, but now also people who are looking to make an investment, rather than buy a £10 duvet that won’t last. By allowing people to split their payments, or pay by credit card rather than cash, Devon Duvets is expanding its customer base and increasing revenue.

People are wanting to buy something that’s better and will be an investment; they want quality. The support of Barclaycard’s payment solution is helping us to reach into another market

Dick Beijen, co-owner, Devon Duvets

The business didn’t need to change their payment acceptance systems, embed an online payment gateway, or spend time educating customers on the benefits of card payments and virtual payments, and that was huge when time was needed to deal with more pressing priorities.

4. Taking time to focus inwards

The world is changing constantly, and you have to continually develop and grow. We have always had that mindset, which has made the current situation a lot easier to deal with in many ways

Pauline Beijen, co-owner, Devon Duvets

The coronavirus pandemic gave Devon Duvets the time and inclination to focus on the business. The opportunity to look at using natural, sustainable materials in a responsible way. They’re looking at more responsible ways to source silk, and have started to use the fibres left over from making luxury fabrics. 

People are thinking more about where things come from, who’s involved in making it, what are we supporting?

Pauline Beijen, co-owner, Devon Duvets

As with all growing businesses, the keys to Devon Duvet’s success - even through a crisis - are a positive attitude that sees them grabbing every opportunity, leaning on payment experts to help reach new customers, and creating great quality products, sustainably, that people want.

Louis Stribbling, Senior Payment Specialist, Barclaycard Business, who has been working with Devon Duvets since 2019, is thrilled to see the success they’ve achieved.

“To grow through a crisis just shows the success our customers can reach on a national scale, both commercially and ethically, with the support of our payments solution.”

  • *All stats referenced in this article are from the same source (unless otherwise referenced): Research was conducted online by YouGov on behalf of Barclaycard between 1 – 21 April 2020. YouGov polled 576 senior members of staff working in UK SMEs, weighted by region to reflect SME distribution in the UK. This data has been compared to Barometer data, run by YouGov with 562 senior members of UK SMEs between 10 – 24 January 2020.
  • 1Taken from Barclaycard Payments proprietary data on 09.07.2020.
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