Issued on: 27 MARCH 2020
Manuel Koser is the co-founder and managing director of Silvertree Holdings, a South African-based investment firm that focuses on growing early and mid-stage companies.
“This has been a crazy week in the world. To many of us it felt like a whole year in just a week. But with all the scary news and huge changes, it’s worth remembering that South Africa has acted much faster than many other countries, and so there is hope that we can avoid the worst.
“Within Silvertree’s portfolio, too, it’s been a dramatic week. Customers are definitely moving their buying online in order to minimise their exposure to risk. Faithful to Nature has seen order volumes double in the last two weeks; PetHeaven has seen a huge increase in sales despite most customers being on regular subscriptions for their pet supplies; and UCOOK has had record order volume on cook-at-home mealkits.
“PriceCheck has obviously seen vastly increased traffic, and has sent 75% more online users to merchants this week compared to just last week. Leading search terms are of course hand sanitiser and face masks, but also non-contact thermometers and even isopropyl alcohol blend, as people are evidently trying to source ingredients for sanitisers. Inverters and generators, leading search terms just a few weeks ago, have slowed down a lot.
“Particularly fast-moving products on Faithful to Nature are hand sanitisers and toilet paper, but we’re also selling immune support (e.g. vitamin C) as fast as we can source it, and are starting to see upticks in home cleaning, household essentials, personal care and pantry essentials.
“Our big challenge has been keeping fast-moving products in stock, and we’ve had to limit sales volume on some, and spend lots of time talking to suppliers. Our warehouse teams have so far been able to keep dispatching orders on time, despite the flood – unlike some online retailers elsewhere in the world that have had to close the sites for any new orders.
“Between managing the extra order volume, we’ve also had to focus on staff and customer safety and continuity in our businesses. A few of the things we’ve done include:
- Mandatory non-touch temperature screening of anyone entering any company building; hand sanitiser, regular hand washing, protective clothing (e.g. masks) for interactions; and a dramatic reduction in anything touched by multiple people. For example, we’ve closed office kitchens and required staff to bring their own cups and mugs to the office
- Many of our warehouse teams have moved onto shift-based working, to reduce the number of people in contact with each other
- Most staff that can are now working from home
- Plus, we’ve been working intensively with suppliers and delivery partners to make sure they have the same measures in place, and to help them scale up to meet increased demand.”