Regular readers of this blog will recall the story of Shaun O’Brien of Direct Plants and how eBay saved his business and changed his life. However, if you are new to this channel, and looking for an inspiring tale of how an entrepreneur pulled himself from the brink of poverty to building a multi-million-pound business on eBay, check out the podcast.
One of the most refreshing things about speaking with Shaun was his openness about where he came from, his mistakes along the way, and how he actively embraced new opportunities as and when they presented themselves. Like many other entrepreneurs, Shaun wasn’t an eCommerce expert when he started selling online. He learned by trial and error, hard work and dedication, and at times sheer pigheadedness. He also committed to working with partners that shared his vision, and that’s how he formed his long and fruitful relationship with Frooition.
Lessons Learned Starting a Business in a Recession
By starting a business in a recession, Shaun equipped himself with the tools he needed to make money in lean times. These included making smart decisions about stock levels, team size, and the technology he deployed (including Frooition partners Linnworks and BigCommerce). This strategy was very much about driving efficiencies and creating space in his business to cope with the peaks and troughs of trade without significantly adding headcount. This approach proved incredibly useful in recent years, particularly during the pandemic when business uncertainty was the only certainty.
Speaking with journalists at HortWeek recently, Shaun said, “History tends to repeat itself, and in times of downturns and recessions, home and garden have performed very well. With people having fewer surplus funds and cutting back on expensive holidays and new cars, etc., they naturally turn to what they have, their home and their garden.”
How the Pandemic Impacted Business
The Direct Plants business enjoyed rapid growth during the pandemic. Despite this, Shaun quickly realised that this growth might not be sustainable post-pandemic.
“We made a decision in late 2021 not to panic buy and overstock for 2022, and this has proved the correct decision, allowing us to not be exposed to unsold stock and unused materials.”
While, as Shaun predicted, sales have declined since the height of the lockdown, they are still up by 20% on pre-pandemic levels. However, this isn’t a case of business as usual in the new normal. Shaun has noticed a change in customer trends.
Direct Website Sales Have Grown
According to Shaun, Direct Plants’ BigCommerce website is now responsible for the majority of the company’s sales in 2022.
“Marketplaces have slowed, and our focus for the short to medium future is to build on that loyalty we gained during the pandemic, engaging with our customer base more,” says Shaun. “Firms who put quality and customer satisfaction as their priority during the pandemic have been remembered by consumers, and the loyalty is now being rewarded.”
To learn more about how Frooition can help you grow your business from the ground up, schedule a free 15-minute discovery call with one of our eCommerce experts today.