A new way to connect with customers and Love Local
Local businesses have adapted to the challenges that have arisen during the Covid-19 pandemic. A shift in sales strategies has been needed for some to ensure that maximum benefit can be made from the domestic market.
One business that was in a great position to capitalise on the resurgence of New Zealand-made goods and the Love Local Tararua campaign is The New Zealand Natural Clothing Company.
Operating from Norsewood, Company Directors Julie and Phil, launched their first online sales platform in 2010 and have seen steady revenue growth every year, combined with their brick and mortar retail in the form of the Otaki and Norsewood stores which are try-on and logistics centres.
Phil has been taking an e-commerce marketing course from the United States online since June last year getting ready for the 2020 NZ/Australian winter season. With the onset of Covid-19 and essential supply status, he was able to capitalise on the training and begin social media marketing campaigns in both NZ and Australia.
“Online revenue has sky rocketed, 1000 per cent up on the first quarter in 2019, with the two retail stores showing 200 per cent and 300 per cent growth as well,” he said.
“This success is due to many factors. With 1.5 million eyes seeing the Facebook page monthly, 15 million people seeing the ads in that three months, along with a captive New Zealand travelling audience, a solid New Zealand-made supply chain and people buying New Zealand-made and the locals committed to #LoveLocalTararua.
Norsewood knitwear, the commercial tenant at the Norsewood factory, had their best June wholesale sales since the days of Norsewear ownership.
The warehouses on the 1970’s factory site are back to the glory days, Phil said.
“It’s heart-warming for me that Ola Rian, the founder of Norsewear, would be so happy to see development of the site, with companies here doing so well again. We are certain it will be a good couple of years with domestic visitors to Norsewood with its WopWops Wetland Park (home of some big long finned eels) and the Jeff Bryan Carving Gallery.
Tararua District Mayor Tracey Collis noted that during lockdown many businesses and people took to Facebook, websites and online shopping as we explored new ways of communicating with each other and customers.
“Some of the best success stories shared are from businesses which engaged with customers, told their story and promoted new products, offers and delivery options,” she said. “We were innovative, looking for new ways to connect and it was successful. Habits have changed and as we move forward, it is important to continue this interaction with customers and take advantage of the new skills in technology we all learned. In the new world we find ourselves in, having a physical shop and a virtual store are necessary for continued growth, success and preparedness if we find ourselves facing disruption again.”
“We look forward to our new cell towers being built this year that will deliver improved internet coverage to many parts of the Tararua District and allow our more remote areas to join in the #LoveLocalTararua campaign”.
In Pahiatua Tina Reeve, owner of Tradesmart Secondhand and Collectibles, has pivoted to online sales and use of local buy/sell pages, not only due to Covid-19, but also because of the ongoing upgrade work of the town’s main street.
Tina said with the disruption caused by Covid-19 and the ongoing works outside her store she’s had to adapt the way she does business.
“I’m attracting people who haven’t been into my store before and an online presence is helping us. We are ticking along and I am really appreciating the support from people online,” she said.
“Through my new online presence I’ve been picking up new customers from Whangarei, Whanganui and down to Christchurch, sending a parcel a day.”
Tina is also trying to co-ordinate deliveries to customers when she is out sourcing stock, mainly to people in Tararua, but also to Palmerston North.
“I am trying to adapt,” she said. “We need to get older people online because during the street upgrade it’s been difficult for those on mobility scooters to come into the shop. It may be messy outside now but once completed it will look good.”
And Tina is adamant people do need to support local businesses and she hopes the #LoveLocalTararua promotion will continue to encourage people to do so.
Supporting local businesses on their Facebook page is a way for locals to support us,” she said. “That support could help lift our business.”
Sera Williams, manager of Yummy Mummy’s in Woodville has noticed a lot more local support since lockdown in both her brick and mortar store and digital.
“Our online sales after Level 4 lockdown were fantastic,” she said. “But now it’s the added support from locals which is helping. We used to rely on tourists, but even over winter when locals are now making the difference.”
Tararua Deputy Mayor, Erana Peeti- Webber, acknowledges “online shopping plays its part in our community. .” With a “physical presence we can try before we buy and we can also check quality before we buy so a balance of both is key”. The online presence of local stores adds the convenience of online shopping while allowing us to #LoveLocalTararua”. “Online also played its part during Covid-19 lockdown as immune compromised people could still get their groceries, meat and supplies delivered. For those in the community that “don’t have internet access or are unsure how to use the internet, a physical shop presence is easier and still essential in our community”.
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