Like all business owners, I have spent the last 6 weeks assessing my business and trying to plan for the future.
One positive thing that has come out of the endless planning sessions, cashflow forecasts and business plans ( it seems like I've had very little time for any creative process) is realising the vast changes and transformation Crane Brothers has been through over the last 24 months and how well placed we are for the future. The future is now by the way.
We do not view ourselves as a traditional retailer and have done our best to stay ahead of the disruption the industry is facing and one of the benefits of working in a highly disrupted industry is that you are well equipped to cope with whatever is thrown at you.
We have strived to remain small and nimble and have invested heavily in future-proofing our business. Here are some of the key things that give me the strength and confidence needed to manage my team and thrive (not survive).
Rebrand - embrace change - In 2019 we went through an extensive rebrand and introduced a new logo and identity to signal and celebrate change, This included significant investment in a new website and has seen online commerce increase by 70%.
Web traffic statistics have improved dramatically and reduced our dependence on traditional advertising mediums like print. Investment in digital including Google Analytics and Adwords - Dwell time on our site has increased and enquiries have grown by 45%. An introduction of Research tools and Inspiration Categories has seen an increase in sales and conversion of enquiries.
Database Management - An enviable active database of clients predominantly men with mid to high-income levels and genuine disposable income. Regular EDM to clients updating them on what is happening instore and online. This creates genuine conversations and drives traffic to stores and website. Cross Marketing with global brands creates strong brand partnerships allowing us to “punch above our weight” in a competitive marketplace.
Investment in Weddings Category - Increased activity in this category including strong and genuine relationships with key Wedding partners. We want to be respected as a market leader in Weddings and Special Occasions and our success has made us less dependent on a traditional suit buying audience.
Eliminating the underperforming "noisy" parts of the business - Making those tough decisions was very difficult at the time. It was tough on the ego BUT they were the right decisions and the ego has recovered. The big and tough decisions included closing our Sydney Showroom and Gubb & Mackie stores as well as reviewing our local manufacturing.
A better Costing model reducing our COGS and meant we could stay viable in a changing market ( which has now changed beyond even our wildest expectations). More efficient purchasing through stronger relationships with fewer suppliers has been positive. We also expanded our Advisory Board to bring in outside expertise and governance in the areas that I felt we were light.
Automation of reporting & processing to reduce wage cost including Online Ordering and tracking of all Made to Measure orders. We have introduced real-time reporting on Inventory and Work in Progress. Bespoke Cloud Reporting has been developed to reduce preparation costs and drive greater efficiency. New supplier agreements and better logistics have reduced lead times and freight costs. This has meant a reduction of our error and remake rate (already low) by 80% allowing us to maintain our pricing.
Introduction of a new Contemporary Line - In 2019 we introduced Contemporary Tailoring, a globally sourced secondary line to sit alongside our Made in Italy offering. Key aspects of this collection were a more competitive price point and a broader product range meaning a bigger and more exciting story to tell.
Diversification into new product categories meant less reliance on our traditional business model (suits). In the last year, we have developed new products & custom made offerings including Denim, Chinos, Sneakers and Footwear whilst still making sure that tailored garments are a strong and relevant part of our DNA.
Continued investment in staff training and retention with a continued focus on service and personalised service. All staff undergo ongoing training and new training tools have been developed to assist them with their knowledge base. The average tenure of our senior employees is currently 8 years. Some staff have been with the business from the very beginning.
Great staff mean great and genuine client relationships based on trust and service.
I recently had an excerpt shared with me by author and activist Arundhati Roy who wrote a recent article published in the Financial Times:
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.