Paul Hayes, CEO of Seasalt, explains how the lifestyle retailer is coping with the coronavirus pandemic.
I’ve never felt more proud of our Seasalt family. It’s been humbling over the past weeks to witness their dedication to our business and support of one another, as we take steps to protect ourselves from the impact of Covid-19.
All of us who chose a career in retail know there will be bumps in the road but the last month has unquestionably been one of the most challenging times in memory. I’m sure I am most certainly not alone in feeling this way.
Nobody is an expert in Covid-19 management or has all the right answers, and we will have all reflected on how our crisis management plans could well have been better. We do not have the benefit of experience when it comes to responding to the outbreak of a virus such as this and the impact it is having on our businesses and everyday lives.
In the spirit of recognising that we are all in this together, I thought I’d share some of the measures we have taken at Seasalt in response to recent events.
Our focus is less on sales and more about engagement through our customer communications
The current circumstances are incredibly tough for our Seasalt community: staff, customers and partners alike. We remain open for business online because there is continued customer demand, but we have temporarily closed all 68 of our shops.
While our focus is to protect the long-term future of Seasalt, for everyone, our priority will always be the well-being and safety of our employees.
For our retail teams and a percentage of our office and warehouse staff, that has meant helping them through the furlough process, and supporting those employees who are staying on to work from home.
For those who have voluntarily chosen to remain at work in our distribution centre, we are taking every precaution with new processes and procedures to keep them as safe as possible.
For our customer service and support teams, we are being mindful of the added stress they have in their days, and offering extra help where necessary.
Time to talk
During this time, I think it’s more important than ever for leaders of retail businesses to remain connected to their employees and to be visible. Communications are transparent and regular at Seasalt.
We post a daily update on our recently introduced app, The Anchor, which has proven invaluable at this time and can be accessed by all of our employees. I also send a weekly message to the entire business.
We’re running a whole range of internal initiatives, including posting video content, mindfulness and opportunities to participate in activities from home.
All the management and board members have already taken a significant pay cut
Protecting our business financially begins with our leaders, too. All the management and board members have already taken a significant pay cut. We are managing to hold fast to the values and the culture that we have built at Seasalt, supporting and looking out for each other, which makes this difficult time easier to tackle.
Of course, our suppliers are also a fundamental part of our Seasalt community. We’ve worked with them for many years and have built strong relationships that we are working hard to protect. To take the pressure off them, as they are also dealing with the crisis, we are honouring payments for orders already in production, working closely with our suppliers to cancel or rephase our fabric commitments and continuing to place orders for the autumn 20 season.
Our customers are at the heart of our community and front of mind in everything we do. They have shown so much positivity at this time, it’s really motivated our teams to receive their feedback and genuine concern. They continue to want to buy Seasalt products, with our reassurance that we are looking after our people and tailoring our services so that our employees are safe.
Our online shop and customer service team remains open for them. In fact, traffic to our website has increased by 17% and we have record levels of engagement on our social media channels.
We are putting plans and efficiencies in place behind the scenes to make sure that we can resume business as soon as the government guidelines allow us to do so. However, in the meantime, our focus is less on sales and more about engagement through our customer communications. We could see quite early on that priorities had changed for our audience, so we want to provide ways to bring them a little bit of Cornwall to brighten their days in this lockdown period.
There will be a change of mindset and behaviours around the globe as a result of this shared experience
Over the coming weeks and months, our plan is to stay connected with our customers through our emails, social media content and on our website, regularly sharing uplifting and inspiring content with our community. Whether that’s a soundscape from the Isles of Scilly, how-to videos from our talented creatives, recipes or book recommendations and author interviews, through our newly launched book club, we hope this time at home will give us some opportunity to reconnect with the interests and people that make us feel calmer while we try to weather the storm.
We will all have lessons to learn from this crisis. Not just as retail and business leaders but as individuals and communities. I feel there will be a change of mindset and behaviours around the globe as a result of this shared experience, as we gain a deeper understanding of the things that matter most to us.
While this situation is unprecedented in its scale, we believe we can make it out the other side – perhaps as a very different business but in good shape to face the future nonetheless.
I wish the rest of the retail community all the very best at this uncertain time.