A weird but exciting year at The Pyjama House
It’s been a while since I last posted a blog and a lot has happened since this time last year when the UK went into the first Lockdown. Like most small business owners I had no idea how the year would unfold, how long the pandemic would last and how so many people would change their way of living and working, and – importantly for us – how they would change their way of shopping. What I was able to do immediately was benefit from being a small, family run business. Looking back over the past year with hindsight, we have been incredibly lucky and have learned a lot about how to run the business going forward. As the old adage goes.. “the harder you work, the luckier you get” and I can safely say that it hasn’t been a year to twiddle thumbs, a fact for which I am hugely grateful as opportunities for doing anything else other than to work have been limited!
A case of Keep Calm and Carry On
One of our key benefits is that The Pyjama House is run from my home in North Yorkshire – small companies are are not referred to as “kitchen table businesses” for nothing! With the only staff being family members we had no issues over PPE and dispatch problems. This was hugely to our advantage in the 1st lockdown whilst the likes of John Lewis, Boden and The White Company set up safe working conditions for their staff, we could simply carry on as usual. Suddenly The Pyjama House started going up the SEO rankings and our generic search results increased dramatically. As long as our local post office was open we could fulfill all the orders in a timely fashion, and more importantly we were here at the end of the telephone to answer customer queries and reassure customers that we were open and operating normally.
Admin Hassle made bearable by an On-line mini boom
Traditionally the vast majority of our sales has been through shopping events and charity fairs. In 2020 we looked on as one by one all our events were cancelled, and then spent hours chasing refunds. On the whole, the charities were extremely generous and quick to return stall fees, but it seemed the larger the administrative body attached to the event, charitable or otherwise, the more costly the cancellation (I am tempted to name and shame a couple, but will resist the urge!) The Pyjama House had some 80 days of selling scheduled and eventually cancelled. This was a nerve-racking time for many small businesses as with money tied up in cancelled events it was difficult to mange cashflow and plan investment, but I felt the need to be bullish. I realised that there was unique opportunity to invest a little money into advertising on line whilst the shops were shut, and as we dribbled a few pounds a day into Google Ads, our ROI started to escalate nicely and generic search increased alongside this too.
The summer ticked along nicely with on line sales and some recovered event fees. New customers, and many loyal repeat customers sought us out for more and more PJ bottoms as the new “Work From Home” boosted leisure and loungewear .. In early summer I realised we were selling much more than usual for the time of year and were potentially going to run out stock before Christmas. With a 9 month lead-time (The Pyjama House designs and manufactures our own fabrics out in India and import by ship to reduce the envrionmental impact of air freight, all of which takes months), I placed a larger and earlier than usual order. My suppliers were delighted.. they usually manufacture men’s shirts and of course that market had crumbled. They leaped back into production for us and, having successfully navigated a shortage of shipping containers and Brexit-related chaos at the ports, we finally took delivery of new product early February.
A new, improved Modus Operandi
Apart from being employed full time fulfilling all you fantastic on line orders, I have also in January found time to upgrade my 5 year old Shopify website. After a lot of work on our part and technical support from Marketing Labs we made the switch to a new Woo Commerce website and I think you will agree it is a huge success. Our new stock and new site launched in February and sales have been fantastic. We hope going forward to rely much, much more on on-line sales. We will continue to perfect and improve the new website, our SEO and our approach to Google advertising. We will, cautiously, venture to a few fairs but have scaled right back choosing only the biggest and the best (see our Events Page for details). From a totally personal perspective I am relishing in the prospect of being busy with your orders and requests from home, and only venturing out to meet you in person at the very best of the shopping events – Burghley Horse Trials, Spirit of Christmas, and a handful of charity fairs where the footfall is excellent and 100% of all that is raised goes to the named charity.. Daisy Trust, Wellbeing of Women, ABF-The Soldiers Charity, Save the Children in Chelsea, and possibly a couple more.
This does mean that we will spend less time selling in the Charity sector and I have been keen to redress that balance. Last year we instead donated a large sum to Tree of Hope, a charity that works to raise funds and help parents of sick and disabled children to raise funds to pay for a child’s specialist medical care. This resulted in the purchase of an amazingly sophisticated wheelchair for a teenager with chronic disabilies resulting from Cerebral Palsy.
In 2021 we very excited about a new venture, investing directly into a tree planting project in Madagascar. You can read more about this in my next blog and on our Tree Planting page.