As an industry, we’ve been faced with numerous challenges since Brexit, with Covid, shipping delays and the war in Ukraine all playing a role in the increasing cost of goods and services in the UK – and adding to staffing issues. Now, as the rise in inflation is pushing up the cost of living, we’re finding out how those working in the nursery sector are managing as they face the ongoing challenges.
While independent nursery retailer, Cloud Nine Baby is concerned about the rising cost of living and how it will affect consumer spending and the more immediate costs of running a business, it is also seeing its customers making more considered purchases:
“When it comes to prams, we are definitely seeing more customers ask for prams that could convert into a double later on, so they don’t have an additional expense further down the line. We are also seeing a much bigger move towards items that last longer such as car seats that go from birth – 4years or even birth – 12 years, and items that can be used beyond baby such as UV sterilisers. Customers don’t necessarily want cheap, they just need to know they are being given quality at the right price.”
Have you had to shift its marketing strategy and partnerships to stay in line with the rising costs of living?
“We’re considering price a great deal, but at the same time trying the best we can to sustain our margins as obviously our costs are going up too. We do offer vouchers and we incentivise our loyal customers and we work with lots of local like-minded businesses to offer incentives. We’re also offering payment plans on bigger purchases and Christmas presents.”
As an independent retailer, how can you best plan for an uncertain future – and what cutbacks have you started to make?
“While it’s difficult to plan a strategy around this, especially while the government policies keep changing, all we can do is cautiously plan around what we can control ourselves – and constantly review it. We’re being sensible with cashflow and managing costs (rather than cutting them at the moment), continuing to drive sales and working with customers to help them as much as possible (with the right support on products and prices).”
How is the Hertfordshire-based boutique supporting its staff as the cost of living continues to rise?
“Although we have contracts in place with guaranteed hours, we also offer flexible working so staff are able to also work other jobs should they wish – and if they need to swap a shift so they can do a day of freelance work, then that’s OK. We do also give their birthday off and try to be as flexible as we can around childcare and holidays.”
Cloud Nine Baby’s top tips, advice or resources for businesses struggling at the moment:
“Keep talking to staff, customers, your peer group and other local businesses. We are all in this together, so any ideas that can be shared can benefit everyone. It is really hard, and there are many more retailers out there who have weathered recessions before, but we have to at least try and be positive, and at least if things don’t work, we can say we went out fighting!”