It’s no small statement to say that the pandemic shook up the supplies industry massively. Most of the population were ordered to work from home or furloughed, completely changing our day to day lives. When how we live is disrupted, our patterns naturally change and the pandemic has been one of the key reasons. But, it’s not the only one.
If we broaden the lens that we’re looking through, we start to see what other social issues have led to the monumental shift in consumer trends since March 2020. As well as what effect these changes have had on our industry and our lives in general.
Undoubtedly the pandemic has been a reason for us all to look at how we consume and order. Ecommerce and digital platforms have advanced at an alarming rate and the shift to most businesses becoming digital first was rapidly accelerated.
At Fenns, we saw clients wanting complete flexibility with their ordering so that they were still able to order through the portal but have the supplies delivered to employees homes. With a strong multi-site ordering process already in place, we were able to adapt and cater for this. Competing with the likes of Amazon for this style of business was great and we’re glad that we won the order!
Our core contracts shifted to purchasing more janitorial supplies and PPE. With our strong relationships with suppliers we were able to source PPE and cleaning supplies where others struggled. All of our contracts were able to receive the supplies they needed without disruption.
With our diverse product portfolio, workwear enabled the business to plough on through COVID and unlike lots of others in the industry, we only left 2020 with a decrease in 7% on our revenue from the year before.
Brexit and the supply chain
Brexit has had a bigger impact than COVID on the supply chain. So in many ways, the pandemic provided a great scapegoat for how our lives were about to be impacted by the upheaval and uncertainty of trade deals.
Many trends are now governed by supply chains and what actually is available to buy. We’re seeing lead times increase on most products as imports from abroad are taking twice as long and the cost of shipping containers are rising dramatically.
Suppliers are not willing to commit to orders until they have reached a minimum amount and the cost for them to buy the resource needed to manufacture is fluctuating invariably. Luckily we’ve been able to overcome the majority of these issues as we worked with suppliers for a long time and they trust that the orders we place are accounted for. Ultimately though, buying patterns are now being governed by what we can get.
Social conscience and sustainability
There’s been a huge rise in the sustainable movement, with people trying to buy locally and support small businesses where possible. Living in a world with finite resources means we need to be mindful of how we consume and the impact this has on our environment.
While the likes of Amazon and ASOS saw record breaking sales due to satisfying the need for instant gratification and our inability to leave our homes, the amount of pressure this put on our environment and even their own processes was staggering! Not to mention the rise of people now paying attention to how brands have treated their employees and Amazon didn’t have the most favourable reputation… With workers campaigning for better pay and safer working environments!
With a business model designed around consolidating supplies, we’ve been able to keep our impact on the environment low.
Looking to the future
While the world might be talking about the ‘new normal’, we’re dubious that anything will go back to what it was before. After a collective awakening, where people have had the time to reevaluate what is important to them, we think the future will be more positive!
Society is now more aware of important issues such as sustainability, work life balance and the need for community. This is reflected in what our clients have been asking for in regards to office design and supplies - wanting to create a place where people feel excited to come back to. As well as equipping it with the supplies to make them feel safe and do their job effectively.