The Covid-19 pandemic effect through the high street has been an eerie reminder for Hollands Country Clothing and its own journey. Although it is now 20 years since the last outbreak of Foot and Mouth, its impact has not been forgotten, especially by those in the thick of it.
Hollands’ simple stall at the Chelford Cattle Market was closed because of Foot and Mouth, and, just as today, retailers like Hollands needed to make sudden operational changes. Hollands’ sole director at the time quickly enrolled on courses in Web Design, HTML coding, and Photoshop, and this decision saw Hollands able to jump into the online world; a place it now comfortably calls home.
Foot and Mouth forced Hollands to adapt to find success. And now there are echoes of this success story with Covid-19 so many years later. With city centres being closed, people have rediscovered the countryside. And that’s helped Hollands to grow.
Hollands Country Clothing has almost tripled in revenue, with the retailer growing from £1.6m in the financial year 2019/20 to £3.8m in the financial year 2020/21.
Though it remains a family run business, Hollands was able to almost triple staff across the same period, growing from a team of 6 to 16, with 8 of the new hires having previously lost their jobs because of Covid-19. The extra demand has also led the business to move into new premises three times larger.
Matthew Holland, MD of Hollands Country Clothing commented: “Being a family run business helps us. We can connect with our customers in a much more direct way. Plus, we come from an agricultural background and still live on our family farm. We’re still in the same world as our customers.”
“The pandemic has been a challenging period for many businesses, yet we have been able to grow and operate our businesses where others have not. One of the main feelings I have is gratitude towards our staff for pulling together and helping us build something for the future. The unfortunate demise of the high street has been terrible, but in a brutal sense it has been inevitable.
“The future for many retail businesses is lead by technology. The technology innovation and real industry is in the online marketplace. Where jobs have been lost jobs will and have been created elsewhere in the economy. We hired ten people during the pandemic, eight of whom had lost their jobs due to covid-19.”
“Businesses are forced to evolve constantly, if you are walking, then competitors will catch up. You can only run and make steps forward. Then if you throw a pandemic or crisis in the mix, businesses which stood still crumble and fail. You must evolve to survive. Mark could have chosen to do nothing when all the Markets and Country Shows were closed in 2008, but instead, he went to college and learnt HTML code. Evolve or fail.”
“Naturally due to the city centre’s being essentially closed, it has forced more people outside. People have rediscovered footpaths and bridleways which are two minutes from their homes. They have always been there, but life has gotten in the way. It’s exciting to see the countryside busy again, the UK is a beautiful place with a lot to offer. As a direct result we have sold more clothing and walking boots than before.”