Just how exactly did Neville Wright manage to build his business up from nothing to employing over 120 people and turning over around £40million per year? Find out in Part 2 of the interview!
Kiddicare’s customer-centric approach was achieved face to face and needed to be transferred to the internet. The first Kiddicare website took 2.5 years to get up and running and was launched on Christmas day in the late 90’s. Dealing with people’s objections to putting credit card details online and also wrong items being delivered due to the colour difference between PC monitors. In 1999 people’s screens would often show different colours.
Re-configuring packaging due to products being handled eight different times before reaching the customer. Suppliers wouldn’t want to provide alternate packaging so Kiddicare put cardboard sleeves on the products with the logo printed on, so not only was it on the box, it was also in front of the courier, the customer, anybody in the depot would see it.
We scrutinised other online companies, which wasn’t many at the time. Nothing would go on the website without a photo. A lot of companies wouldn’t even have a price! We would have prices for multiple buys. Stock level information, delivery information was provided by Kiddicare, putting them well ahead of the curve.
What would the customer want? When the cot arrives, they’re going to need a mattress. The cot needs to have a choice of mattresses on the same page. It needs blankets, sheets, each of these products needs six items, each of those six items have a further six items associated with it so people would buy more. They’d buy a cot, go on to the mattress section, then they’d go on the sheets page, then duvets, then blankets! Then there would be toys and further associated products like changing mats. On the changing mats there would be nappies, a never-ending circle…
We used to make a daily list of faults, for example on the website. It would only take 20 minutes and we would rectify them straight away.
We used to go to technology shows in London. There we would look for the companies who could do what we wanted, for example, build a website. Through this we built several websites, one after another, it scaled and maximised our business.
Did you develop your warehouse management system in-house? We employed sub-contractors and then used IBM. We actually did most of it ourselves, then integrated it. We used lots of outside contractors in the last 2 years when I was there. The system became one of the best in class! We were one of the first people to use SMS notifications. We were passionate about getting it right.
Despite your massive growth and being an independent retailer, it wasn’t without it’s challenges, was it? We were DPD’s largest customer and the only customer bigger than us at Christmas was the phone companies. During the 2008 recession, business hit a brick wall. It affected every business. Too much day left at the end of your money!
I took £2.8million out of my pension pot and put it back into the business. It’s very rare you can do something like that, but we did it!
We reached a turnover of £40million. If we’d sat back and relaxed, we never would have achieved that. Maybe you’ll find between 2-4 teams during your lifetime who will gel and take your company to the next level.
If you reject somebody who wants to buy your business, you need to be careful. They could buy your competitors business and price you out of the market.
Kiddicare sold in 2011 for £70m to Morrisons. We prepared to business to be able to scale to £200m turnover, and we didn’t have the energy to do it. So we wanted to sell to someone who could support and fund this growth.
Kiddicare is now owned by Dunelm. Do you se that as a good fit Neville? Well I actually thought The Range would buy it, it was more of an obvious fit. They’ve now got a small department for a nursery. You’ve got to have the right staff in a nursery. They have to be trained and passionate everybody was responsible!
Do you think there’s a hole in the market since you left Neville? A huge hole! I don’t know why any big player hasn’t expanded and filled the void. Maybe they lack that personal touch… It’s a hard job, scaling. It’s in our genes to push the boundaries!
Neville overcame customers’ objections to buying additional products because they were too expensive by breaking down the price per month, per day. He would say, “This works out to 14p per day… Is that worth the price for a happy wife?!”
We made 10,000 videos of our products. They would show customers, for example, how to fold travel cots. It would save so many customers returning items they believed to be faulty.
In 2010, we would have around 3,000 customers per day ordering items. They would order about 10 items at a time too. We were only really interested in shifting large quantities of products.
Living in a caravan with my wife and a three-year old child in the early days was difficult but it meant that everything else was just gravy. If it all went wrong we knew we could survive in a temporary caravan, although we didn’t want to! A lot of people go bankrupt and keep hold of their possessions, if you’re going to loose your possessions, you might as well lose them quick!
We used to employ 120 people, we would look at it as 120 families. Most people who worked for us didn’t want to be in business, they wanted a job, and they enjoyed that job. Many people joined us straight after leaving school, met people at the company, got married, that’s what they wanted! They didn’t want to be like us.
In every business there’s a cycle. Your business starts off worth nothing, then you get it up to being worth something, then maybe you can enhance it and it’d be worth a great deal of money. If you keep it, then somewhere along the line, that circle will keep going and then start to go down and you’re back to square one. Realising all the circumstances around the economy, what’s going on with all the other businesses? What’s going on with you? What’s going on with your management team? What’s going on with the industry as a whole?
I treated my business like a foal. If you take great care of that foal, feed it the right stuff then one day it’ll become a racehorse, win the cup and make you a fortune! Still, the horse will die one day. You can keep it, or sell it on for enormous amounts of money!
Either you stand still going backwards, or you grow!
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