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Checking In: Kiddies Kingdom talks to Mohammed Patel, md of Kiddies Kingdom, based in Dewsbury about their recent experience during lockdown.

How has business been for Kiddies Kingdom during lockdown?

Although we had to close our showroom following the initial lockdown announcement, this had little impact on business as at Kiddies Kingdom, ecommerce is our strength. We have six small warehouses as opposed to one larger space, so staffing levels are low as a standard. Our warehouses are segmented in layout, allowing staff to continue picking and packing as normal, without compromising the social distancing restrictions. We currently have around 50 members of staff, so as a business, we’re not too big. Anyone that’s able to work from home has been able to do so easily by using the collaborative tools and communication systems that are in place.

How were online sales while your shop was closed?

In the first few weeks, we experienced an instant surge in online orders, with traffic more than doubling (105%) overnight. Many retailers were forced to half their workforce due to health and safety and some national stores even shut down their online offering altogether. Unlike other retailers, we’ve been able to be in full operation which has meant we’ve experienced unprecedented demand. The drastic increase in online orders and customer queries placed our supply chain under great strain, something we didn’t prepare for and has been a real learning curve. We have had to put new procedures in place to support this demand, investing in stronger automated systems to increase the frequency and efficiency of communications regarding order tracking and delivery updates.

Above: Mohammed Patel, md of Kiddies Kingdom.
Above: Mohammed Patel, md of Kiddies Kingdom.

To what extent have you re opened to the public this week?

We started taking online bookings from Monday 15th June for private appointments at our Dewsbury showroom. So far, we’ve had great interest and are fully booked for the next three weeks. Depending on how social distancing rules progress, we anticipate there will be huge appetite for 1-2-1 appointments in the long term and we will potentially need to recruit specifically for this role. Shopping for baby essentials is not a process we’d advise to be rushed, so by introducing a personal shopping experience, it will allow us to give customers the time and attention we deem necessary.

Have your customers been pleased to be able to get back into your shop, or have you still had a lot of online sales as well?

Absolutely. Whilst we’ve seen expectant parents turn to online shopping during this period, a lot of baby products such as car seats and strollers are one off purchases, so people often like to ‘touch and feel’ before buying. Over recent years, we’ve seen a shift in consumer behaviour, where consumers would come in to store for demonstrations and also make their decisions in store, but end up buying online. I don’t envisage this changing, which is why there is still the need for a physical showroom, but now that customers know they can make purchases from the comfort of their own home, we will see this become more popular.

Is there anything that lockdown has taught you as a business?

The recent period has taught me that the key to success is being proactive in your approach. Things have escalated rapidly over the past few weeks, so we’ve always been looking forward to predict what might happen next, with the idea to put processes in place. With the overnight shift to online sales, our business resources were stretched beyond imagination. One change that we will definitely make after lockdown is investing heavily in our infrastructure to prepare for scalability. We would like to introduce an elasticated HR model to accommodate for more temporary workers as well as working round the clock, seven days a week (similar to the Amazon model) to spread workload. We’ve found our staff are extremely productive whilst working at home, so this could be something that’s rolled out long-term with flexible working patterns. We were lucky to already be using video conferencing and various collaboration tools internally already, so we’ve been able to stay connected easily. It has also reaffirmed to us that the future of retail is online, so whether you have a physical store or not, being able to deliver using an ecommerce platform is essential.

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