Adaptability is key for British manufacturer celebrating 160 years in the business

Adaptability is key for British manufacturer celebrating 160 years in the business

An award-winning Loughborough family business that supplies homeware and outdoor goods to some of the UK’s most iconic retailers says “adaptability is key” to the firm’s 160-year success.

Charles Bentley & Son, a major provider of Dropship services for the UK’s biggest home and garden retailers, was hit by order cancellations as shops closed their doors in the fight against coronavirus and quickly had to adapt to a surge in online demand to accommodate a change in consumer behaviour.

Formed as a manufacturer of brushes for chimney sweeping in 1860, the sixth generation family-run business knows how to adapt to customer needs, as it has been supplying homes with contemporary goods for decades.

Now an employer of over 150 people, the firm produces two million brushes annually from its factory in Monarch Way and has operated a home and garden ecommerce website since 2005.

Andrew Steel, Ecommerce Director, said: “It has been a tough time for retailers across the board and we’ve certainly faced many challenges.

“Clearly the closure of most retailers had a massive impact on our core retail business, however, as a key supplier of professional and industrial hygiene products our focus shifted to ensure we were in-stock and ready to supply vital goods into the NHS, industrial and educational sectors.

“We have suffered significant losses from order cancellations during our peak sales period, but it is our adaptability and diversification as an independent business that has enabled us to pivot our operation.”

Results have seen a 500 per cent, year-on-year increase in sales of painting and decorating supplies between March and May.

The firm has also experienced a three-fold increase in barbeque and garden furniture sales as well as a surge in online demand for brushes and brooms with sales up 1,000 per cent year on year.

Andrew added: “It doesn’t just apply to our product portfolio, it also applies to our team. We have prioritised staff availability in customer services and technical roles to keep our ecommerce operation running smoothly through what has been our biggest peak in sales.

“We’re working proactively with our retail partners to prepare for the future and supply products that customers need.”

Stepping in to provide warehouse storage and pick and pack services for a large chain retailer after its existing provider went into lock down has allowed the business to showcase its flexibility.

Andrew added: “It provided us with an opportunity to solidify our partnerships and really demonstrates our flexibility as a business.

“Our workforce is a primary focus for us, keeping our teams safe and safeguarding jobs for the future, so having the agility to react to our partners’ changing needs is key.”

Charles Bentley & Son supplies its goods to retailers and has also recently developed a plastic-free range of cleaning products in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society, sold through its website, Sainsbury’s, Argos and good independent retailers.

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