COVID-19, Coronavirus, pandemic, unprecedented – all words that seem to have become all too familiar in 2020. This time last year, heading towards the August bank holiday, who would have thought that less than 12 months later we’d be back into recession and our economy could have shrunk by 20% in one quarter?! Certainly not me!
Last year, we’d just started selling our Beeble honey whisky to farm shops up and down the land. Of course this is not a novel idea, retailers have sold manufacturers products for hundreds of years, but as a new business this felt like a big moment for us; a new strategy, a path for building towards a bright future! Sales were strong in the lead up to Christmas and then dipped in the new year, as is to be expected. But just as we were gaining some 2020 momentum – BAM! COVID-19 arrived… and as we all know; it’s changed just about everything.
I think it’s fair to say there was a bit of a lassaiz-faire attitude towards Coronavirus at first. The government was slow to react, the population naively thought it would be another Ebola or SARS that would never reach UK shores, and businesses were, to be frank, completely shell-shocked. All of a sudden Beeble was in a frantic rush to make as much product as we could before the impending lockdown. We had to return to our old homemade methods of production seeing as our Scottish distillery had already been shut down due to social distancing measures and even when it did open up again, they were too busy making hand sanitizer to even think about a production run for us. And so then, nothing.
As we all retreated to our family homes – adult children living under the same roof as their parents for the first time in a decade or more – there was a calmness akin to the eye of the storm. No cars on the road, no socialising in pubs, nobody shopping the high-street, no life as we’d come to know it. The fear of the unknown drove us to stockpile the essentials, notably loo-roll, as if the apocalypse was imminent. Of course, this was no good for a giftable product like ours – sales plummeted. What do we do now? I thought.
Well, we waited, and to be fair Dishy Rishi (as was known by the female contingent in my household) came to the rescue with an unprecedented £300billion rescue plan like no other ever seen. The furlough scheme (or Job Retention Scheme as officially known) seemed too good to be true and yet at the same time it still feels like a giant band-aid being used for someone who’s just undergone open heart surgery.
What does it all mean for Beeble? I hear you cry. Confidence does appear to be returning and we’ve seen a noticeable uptick in sales this month for the first time since the lockdown. But perhaps the biggest shift for us in the last few months has come in terms of our strategy and direction. We want to become much more of an online business and we must become more self-sufficient in terms of our customer engagement because we can’t rely solely on our farm shop retailers with another spike in cases likely. We want to create more of our own product lines – you may have noticed we’ve just recently started selling several different varieties of local honey by collaborating with independent UK beekeepers, each one from a different county. We’re looking to create much more online content and we’d like to become somewhat of an online Bee Bible, hence Beeble. An online marketplace where one can shop for all sorts of bee products and we can help smaller beekeeping apiaries sell their products on our website, free-of-charge. Grand plans, and yet we must make sure we keep our head above water to make these changes of implementable.
If I am grateful for one thing during this strange year, it’s that I’ve had plenty of time to think; time to reflect and consider. It’s sometimes really hard to see what’s on the next horizon when you’re focusing so much on the first horizon and I hope that from now on I’ll remember to look, not only to the second horizon but the horizon after that as well.
Written by Matt
Matt and Nicola ~ co-founders of Beeble