Joules Clothing – Spreading A Little Sunshine and Some Smiles

On a bright but breezy Tuesday 5th May 2020; on (what seems like) day 487 of the UK in lock-down some of the GO! team tuned into the first Drapers Connects Webinar with Joules Clothing CEO Nick Jones.

Whilst there was no escaping the fact that this session would focus on Covid-19 and the obligatory mention of these unprecedented times the webinar itself was fantastic and gave us a clear insight into how brands can plan their short-term and long-term strategies.

Kirsty McGregor from Drapers was unsurprisingly a natural and the conversation uncovered a few important brand takeaways that resonated with our team.


The Past & Present

Nick quite rightly opened the discussion by expressing how adaptable people can be and how much can be done remotely.

Specifically, for the retail industry, the impact of Covid-19 on the supply base, remote working and the constraints and physical restrictions on customers has been of the largest scale. Nick described three main takeaways that were the cornerstones of their planning at Joules:

  • The safety and security of colleagues.
  • Communication to maintain a relationship with customers.
  • Operational stability and liquidity so that the business can come out of these circumstances with a robust trading strategy.

This planning and business continuity meant that Joules were able to react quickly and achieve online sales that are ahead of expectations. In practical terms and working with reduced capacity and throughout Joules have concentrated on managing their customer demand via digital channels.

Joules took a holistic approach to the digital strategy. Operationally it was important to plan to capacity whilst implementing social distancing and keeping colleagues safe. For the customer, the returns policy has been extended to 365 days to remove any stress of customer services policies whilst people are social distancing and delivery times have been extended to up to 10 days.

The Joules social media engagement and email communications is focused on developing an emotional connection with their customers and treating them as people, understanding what is important to them. Joules have over 300,000 followers on Instagram and over 560,000 on Facebook many of whom have been delighted with the Joules ‘share a little sunshine’ campaign that has an emphasis on people doing small things to make a difference. Examples are a collaboration with The Great British Bake Off and a competition to get a photo of your pet on the next Joules jumper.

The conversation and ongoing dialogue of being in this together resonates with the Joules company ethos who also run an online marketplace ‘Friends of Joules’ where independent retailers and small businesses have access to the online sales platform. Nick shared that they had even onboarded 50 new sellers whilst under lock-down.


The Future

This week government plans have been leaked and the reality seems to be that social distancing will be in place until the end of 2020 and there will be a phased return to work out of lock-down. It will take considerable time for the staggered easing of government, community and business restraints and the priority for all companies is the safety of colleagues and customers. Whilst busy high-streets are far away it is interesting to think about the perceived decline in the high-street and how the future may look.

The change in the role of the high street has been accelerated as has the use of digital channels for retail. Nick explained that the high street has been developing for some time and the configuration has evolved to be much more experience based with a focus on bars, restaurants and leisure activities rather than traditional shopping.

Multi-channel propositions seem to be the most appealing to consumers who want to interact with brands on their own terms and even split tasks between being online and in person such as ‘click and collect’ so that they may pick and choose what is enjoyable about shopping.

This ‘total retail’ experience will see shopping spaces changing and evolving whereby different companies may collaborate and bring together the spirit of community for the good of everyone.

It is important for brands to asses their offering be it wholesale, retail, marketplace or international and how they can utilise marketing to support the unknown future.