Red Hamper is an independent family-run business supplying a wide range of luxury basket ware, based in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside. With a global customer base, the business sells through Amazon, Wayfair and their own eCommerce website.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Red Hamper felt the effects immediately. Sales went from a substantial monthly figure to zero and suppliers closed their doors to business. To help safeguard his business, Matthew Taylor, Owner of Red Hamper contacted AskIf who were able to set up a £50,000 CBILS loan following a simple application process.
Fortunately, as the situation developed and the business received the funding, Red Hamper started to see a change for the better in sales. Amazingly, sales had increased over and above the pre-Covid levels. During a ‘normal’ month, Red Hamper would usually experience a £35,000 turnover, after going live again with CBILS funding sales hit £70,000-£90,000, figures Matthew doesn’t think would be possible without the help of CBILS.
Joanna Hill, Commercial Director, AskIf, commented: “Red Hamper’s story really demonstrates how the right finance at the right time can not only rescue a business but help it grow far beyond imagination. Matthew has an excellent product here and beautifully presented marketing, it’s very obvious as to why Red Hamper is a success. I’m delighted that the funding has helped Matthew take advantage of what seems to be a very healthy retail environment in this market.
“Our team pride themselves on offering a bespoke application process which gives the business owner space to explore all avenues, concerns and worries. It’s wonderful to hear Matthew’s feedback.”
Matthew recalls the beginnings of Red Hamper: “We started about 6 years ago I suppose. Selling just a couple of wicker baskets and we’ve grown to sell around 3,000 lines now. It’s incredible really how well we’re covered around the globe. We sell all over the world, even sending a lot over to Belgium and Sweden.
“It always has just been me at Red Hamper, it’s long days but that’s fine.I started as a landscape gardener, born on the shovel – as they say – out landscaping from the age of 16. So it might be long days but at least it’s not wet days and cold mornings!”
Commenting on the impact of Covid-19, Matthew said: “We were just ticking along quite nicely until that virus came along and it put a bit of a pinch on us really, to put it lightly.
“Sales went from good to zero overnight and our position wasn’t so healthy. Our suppliers were shut down too. But I knew this was a good business and I wasn’t going to let it fail.”
It was at this stage when Matthew started to explore how CBILS funding could sustain Red Hamper throughout this difficult period of time.
“I spoke to my bank and very quickly got the impression they weren’t going to help. Not interested at all. They’ve never actually helped. Speaking to colleagues in similar positions, running businesses, I wasn’t the only one who experienced this. I knew I had to think differently to find help.
“I went online and started with a pretty broad search around alternative ways of accessing CBILS funding. Sounds silly but AskIf starts with A, so I started at the beginning at the list. There was a line on the AskIf website which really resonated with me: ‘We help people when others don’t’ and I thought if anyone can help me, these people can. I’d buy the guy who dealt with me a drink if I could, AskIf helped save my business there’s no doubt about that.
“The application process was also very easy. The person I dealt with was working as quickly as possible despite it being a developing situation. I can’t find a fault with AskIf, it’s been spot on.”
Once Red Hamper had finalised a CBILS loan of £50,000 repayable on a 12-month basis, Matthew was able to work with his suppliers to get products moving again, and at this point there was a step change in his business.
“We started seeing orders coming in at huge rates. A normal month for us is £35,000 turnover, but we hit £70,000 in the first month of going back live again with the CBILS funding. In July we hit £90,000. Without the loan, I would’ve lost thousands of pounds worth of orders because I didn’t have the facility to service those orders. Simple as that. It was almost laughable watching these orders come in, I just couldn’t believe it. The sheer number of people ordering was fantastic.”
Noticing how buying habits have changed throughout national lockdown, Matthew commented: “It was amazing how you could see the popular products change as the government announced restrictions and then loosened them.
“It started off with storage baskets when everyone was locked down and then it went through to garden trugs because everyone was out gardening for a time in the nice weather. Then in July/August it’s been picnic baskets because everyone is going out more. Now we’re clipping into log baskets, which is a bit earlier than normal – it’s usually September. I think because people are still in their homes, they’re thinking about what they need for the Winter.”
Looking towards the future, Matthew said: “I think people now know Red Hamper a lot more which will help boost sales far into the future. People are beginning to know the name and I’ve been able to diversify too during this time – we’re working with hotels and restaurants we never have before.”
With advice for other struggling businesses in the UK, Matthew commented: “If you’re struggling because you’re losing money consistently then I think you need a reality check, but if there’s a spark of a good business. Fight on, crack on – that’s all I can say. Red Hamper wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t done that.”
Find out more about Red Hamper