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A YEAR TO REMEMBER! From Graham Richard Brand Director Ronhill & Hilly

A YEAR TO REMEMBER! From Graham Richard Brand Director Ronhill & Hilly

As we gallop into 2021, it’s hard to believe, that it’s almost a year, since we were all at the start of the Covid-19 war ( and in our 50th anniversary year, too)! Without having experienced anything similar before and no books or information to tell us what to do, we, like all businesses were forced into a new round of planning and massive changes, including: home working, furlough and planning for the forthcoming unknown period ahead.

With shops, gyms, schools, pubs, restaurants and so much more ‘closed’ the general feeling was that we would all do less business in 2020. Consequently, Autumn/Winter orders with suppliers were reduced in line with re-phasing of all budgets.

Fast Forward to the end of December and upon reflection just how much happened and changed. With the great spring and early summer weather, so many more people took advantage of the one of the only things we were all allowed to do – exercise outside and consequently, more people started to run, walk and cycle. Indeed over 1 million people downloaded the NHS Ap – ‘Couch to 5k’ between the start of lockdown and the summer!

Those specialist online businesses and those ‘bricks and mortar ‘ stores who had an online presence experienced a massive increase demand for running shoes and apparel and even when the shops re-opened in the summer they were busy too and despite all of the restrictions they had to implement for safety reasons, many rose to the challenge with some entrepreneurial actions to adapt to the situation and generate sales.

Some who didn’t have an online presence, realised that their business was vulnerable with only one channel, and consequently, built an online platform, which was to serve them well, when we had the second lockdown, in November and again, now.

Our sales in the final three months of the year were amazing and the general consensus was that a lot of people who had started running in the warmer spring and summer, realised that they needed warmer and reflective apparel for the colder and darker weather. Also, with the gyms closed for a lot of the time more were actually running outside, too. With a lot of people working from home and those who had to and continue to juggle work and home schooling etc, exercise has become more important and being able to have a break in the day, when light, has been a significant factor.

Health and wellbeing will be far higher up a lot of people’s agendas going forward and as we know exercise helps in so many ways

The only downside of COVID-19 restrictions has been that there have been no races and events ( apart from virtual ones) and it is hoped that they will return in the near future, especially the likes of Park Run and then the major marathons and local classics.

Our standard sales launches ( Spring/summer and autumn/winter) which are normally held over two days in a Manchester hotel, had to be cancelled and instead we had to change the format to virtual events on zoom, which was a new experience, but our marketing team rose to the challenge and we were able to combine some great external imagery/filming with studio work, to allow us to present the new collections to our UK retailers and overseas distributors, alike.

The reaction to the new collections has been very positive and indeed our Autumn/Winter 21 order book is significantly up on the 2020 order book, with a lot of optimism in the trade and overseas for this year.
Finally, in December we were really pleased to gain top spot for both our men’s and women’s apparel, in the National Running Awards, with silver in the socks and underwear category.
UK and overseas travel for our business has been totally curtailed this year and likely to be for some time yet, but how we have all had to and managed successfully to communicate with our internal teams, and customers both in the UK and around the world, via zoom and teams.

Whatever, the new normal will be we will have to wait and see, but for me the past year has proved that we have all had to be so fleet footed and flexible to allow our businesses to operate as beat we can and as we have had to encounter and overcome so many different things, i am sure that will it will make us work closer as an industry as we are in this together and together we can move forward.

Graham Richards
Ronhill, Hilly and Altra
Brand Director

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