The team at Bailey Nelson was forced to respond quickly and effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Being an optical retailer, with a high touch personal service, we had to take a step back and made the decision to close our stores,” said Chris Tham, Bailey Nelson’s CFO. It proved to be the right choice, albeit a difficult one.
Founded in Sydney’s Bondi Beach in 2012, Bailey Nelson designs and distributes stylish prescription glasses and sunglasses. The retailer offers direct-to-consumer eyewear, and each of its stores has an optometrist onsite. This end-to-end service combined with cool, affordable frames has proved a winning formula with consumers, and the brand now boasts 70 stores across Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK.
Each and every one was shut by March 27th.
Seeing Things Clearly
This left Bailey Nelson needing to critically manage cash flow. “We had to look at cash preservation,” Tham said. “In a situation like this you can’t hesitate. You have to act quickly. We made decisions around what costs we wanted to cut, and because of that we were able to ramp down our costs quickly.”
Throughout the crisis, the business has remained committed to honest channels of communication with its employees and partners.
“We had to furlough some employees at store level,” Tham said. “Fortunately, with programmes in Australia, Canada, UK and New Zealand, there is some form of wage subsidy that’s provided. So, we’ve brought back any full-time employees, so they are able to take advantage of the wage subsidies.”
Bailey Nelson’s decisiveness and openness has proven vital. “The most important thing we’ve learned (is) transparency,” Tham said.
“It’s not an easy situation, but I think employees will understand if we’re being honest. And right from the very beginning we’ve done that.”
Eyeing Up New Experiences
Although it’s predominantly a bricks-and-mortar retailer, Bailey Nelson also has a strong ecommerce offering, which the business is leveraging. “We’ve seen a lift in online sales across all regions—two or three times the traditional (levels),” Tham said.
Faced with a sustained period of store closure, Bailey Nelson is focusing on projects that will help improve the ecommerce channel in the future. “We have an opportunity to continue to make investments in digital,” Tham said. “We have a window where we can (work on) digital capabilities and improvements to our website and experience.”
Instead of just waiting for things to go back to normal, the business is actively using this period to review, understand and improve its offering. “When our business is back up and running, how does our customer experience evolve? What can we offer digitally to continue to complement the in-store experience?” Tham said. “(We) need to learn from
the different things we’re doing now—ones that provide great customer experience or drive retention.”
Future In Sight
The business is also preparing for the new world of retail, where some form of social distancing still remains. “When business reopens again, I don’t think it's going to go back to normal. For us, we’ll have to reassess what our in-store experience looks like to make sure our customers and staff are safe and comfortable,” Tham said.
So, faced with a lot of uncertainty, Bailey Nelson is turning its attention to things it can control, such as making business improvements. This way it hopes to be in the best position possible when ordinary life returns. “Ideally, when stores are back online, the company is in a better state than before,” Tham said.
Watch the interview with Hansford discussing supply chain challenges, working with landlords and partners, as well as preparing for the future.
Check out Bailey Nelson’s range of prescription glasses and sunglasses by visiting its online store.