I love Sheffield and I love the team there. But I've made a decision; we're moving to a fulfilment service. A fulfilment service stores, picks, packs and posts a stores goods, but isn't part of the company, instead we have a contract with them. This means you can lose some of your autonomy and integration between customer service and packing, but here's the reasons I think it's worth doing:
1) Rachel, Jo, Rose and occasionally Charlie work on three retail outlets and our wholesale. That means there's always competition for what needs done first. That means sometimes choosing between picking parcels, answering emails, doing admin, answering the phone, marketing things, and everything else, when all are important. Moving to a fulfilment service should mean that even on a heavy email day, your parcels go out. Vice-versa, even on a busy post day, emails should get answered.
2) With only Rachel and Jo fulltime, we're very prone to breaks in service caused by illness, holidays, family issues... all the usual things that affect people. Moving to a bigger organisation means they should be more resilient to such things and they are promising to ALWAYS get your parcels out - same day for orders before 2pm, day after otherwise.
3) With our relatively small parcel volume, there are things we just can't do, like accessing certain courier services that have effectively a Minimum Order Quanity, or being certain that if you ordered a courier or next day delivery it would happen. So moving should mean that we can improve the delivery options we offer you.
(Might take a while to sort out the software though, this is by far the trickiest bit.)
What stays the same:
The plain packaging and use of HSS Tariff codes; we know that many of you don't want anyone to know your parcel is full of pants. Plus, we had a decrease in thefts when we changed to that, so it stays.
That the cost of postage keeps going up. Royal Mail are still the most reliable and they keep hiking their prices. We looked at cheaper options, but at least with Royal Mail they don't usually store post in your dustbin (garbage, for the Americans).
That sometimes you will get free postcards, flyers and so on.
There will still be someone to email and ring about your order - they're just not going to be in the same place as the stock.
What will change:
This does mean that I am, at least temporarily, waving a very sad goodbye to Jo, Rachel, Rose and Charlie. It's been a few years together now, which is longer than the average small business even manages to keep going, and while I fretted over it, the reality is that KMD should be able to offer a much better service to customers this way. Somehow I have a feeling that they won't totally vanish off the radar, either.
Mystery free gifts may well become a thing of the past; the new office say they are happy to look at it, but it's deeply unlikely they would be able to send them with as much insight as staff who Recognise Your Name. So I'll be looking at other ways to surprise and delight! Probably involving chocolate. We looked into tea, but it's illegal to export it to loads of places, oddly. More plausibly, we might have to specify free gifts on your orders.
Of course, as all of you know, moving is best done with as little stuff as is possible. So, this is likely to be the only time I put more than 50 items on sale, with frankly ridiculous discounts. We'll also be packing the first few orders with what's left of the mystery gifts, though I'm told that we have lots of smalls and very few in other sizes, so don't hold your breath.
The sale will end at the start of April, then we'll have a bank holiday weekend, and after that everything will be moving to it's new home - Bristol!
I'd like to take a minute here to thank everyone who has worked over the last few years in Sheffield - we've had temps and interns as well. Jo has been with me the longest and honestly, it's hard to know what a company looks like without an employee who wears armour in his spare time. As part of his redundancy package he is winning Henry the Hoover. Rachel, meanwhile, who is basically head of spreadsheets, will be having the computer. Rachel has amassed the most amazing amount of data over the last few years (indeed only today I discovered that she has the average weights of parcels sent overseas from the main retail site versus eBay IN HER HEAD), which has been amazing. Rose has been the person mostly answering your "where are my pants?" emails, working out what product you're envisioning (sometimes not even our own) and making changes and tweaks in the background to mean that you can get all the information without emailing us. Last bit not least was Charlie, who joined us last year as an intern. She was so good that in different circumstances I'd happily be having her back, but she leaves us with way more information about publicising a small largely online brand than a degree in marketing gives you - and an awful lot of free bras.
I know plenty of you have spoken to them rather than me at various points - and I hope you have some good memories to share in the comments!