UK-based family business, Boolavard, has achieved global reach and substantial sales growth, despite an uncertain year, after using Fruugo, an online marketplace focused on cross-border trading.
Can you give us an overview of your business – when did you start and what are your objectives?
Boolavard is a family business that was created in 2012. Since launch, it has grown from a very small local venture to an international one and we now import and sell a wide range of affordable clothing and beauty products.
We launched in 2012 with just £500 worth of eyelashes to sell and these were packed and shipped from our living room. As the business grew, we opened a shop to accompany the e-commerce side of the business where we sold vintage clothes and items.
At first, we used the shop to package and ship our orders, however as our orders grew we invested in a small warehouse – a big step for the business. After a while we had to get a bigger unit and recently we bought a second one next door. We no longer run the physical shop due to capacity and the profitability of our online selling.
I could not have imagined when I started Boolavard eight years ago that it would grow to its current size – both from a revenue perspective and with half a dozen full time employees.
Tell us about your face covering product – when did you begin manufacturing these?
We are a reseller and work with a number of trusted providers across the globe whose products we market, sell and ship to our customers. At regular intervals we review what products we purchase or import to make sure it is in line with consumer demand and our overall business model. At the very start of the pandemic we suffered like almost every other business and most of our team were sent home as we planned to join the furlough scheme. Rather than sitting back, we immediately looked at how we could adapt our strategy to boost sales throughout the crisis.
As we saw an immediate spike in sales of bandanas, we decided to expand our face masks offering and imported them from one of our trusted partners in China. Once we started marketing them through Fruugo we saw an immediate boost in sales in line with the consumer demand, not just in the UK but across Europe and the rest of the world as well. Since then face masks have been our most popular product and also had stints as one of the top selling items on Fruugo’s entire marketplace. This has more than carried us through the year so far and within a week of our pivoting we could bring our employees back into the business, a number of who are my family, and keep them from going on furlough.
What challenges did you need to overcome ahead of selecting Fruugo?
We have been lucky in the sense that most of our challenges have been tied to our growth over the years. We have had to consistently upscale in response to the demand for our products.
Ahead of selecting Fruugo our specific challenge was relying too much on a small number of sales channels, mainly Amazon, which meant we were at the mercy of our performance there. While we did well, we hit a point where our growth slowed which is when we realised that it was necessary for us to diversify.
Since joining the platform, Fruugo has played a key role in our growth and our cross-border sales on the platform have become an increasingly important part of our overall business performance. The fact that we have more personal contact with Fruugo also means that we can get advice and receive more strategic insight into performance than is possible with a larger marketplace.
When and why did you decide to start working with Fruugo?
We started working with Fruugo two years ago. Prior to that we had mainly relied on Amazon for sales and while that worked well, we felt that as we continued growing we did not want all our eggs in one basket. As an online seller you need to spread your risk, so that a decrease in activity in one channel can be compensated by another one. We started looking out for other alternatives and found Fruugo to be a good match.
What are the key benefits of using Fruugo?
The key benefit of using Fruugo is the global reach it has given our business, which has led to substantial sales growth for us. We can now reach consumers in a number of countries across the world in a way that was not feasible previously, and target country-specific demands almost immediately. Many consumers also distrust the big marketplaces and prefer using sites like Fruugo to shop, so now we are tapping into those sales too.
How has Fruugo enabled you to take your product beyond country borders?
We have always had customers outside of the UK, with Germany being a key market for a long time. With Fruugo we have been able to build on that very quickly, thanks to the support it offers with copy translation, marketing and currency conversions. It is a great for us to be able to send our products to people in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Israel, the US and many other places we previously did not serve.
How does Fruugo help your business day to day?
Fruugo helps the day to day running of our business by ensuring we always have a growing stream of orders to fulfil, with minimal effort needed to be put into marketing and coordinating the international side of our business. This means we not only grow our sales but also save time that can be used for strategic activities.
How far has Fruugo enabled your business to scale?
As a family business that started with a stock of just £500 worth of fake eyelashes which were shipped from our living room, Boolavard has gone through numerous rounds of rapid upscaling over the last eight years. In the past couple of years, Fruugo has been a key part of this journey as it has helped us broaden our consumer base around the world – even during COVID-19. The agile nature of trading through Fruugo means we can continuously change our sales and marketing strategies to make sure they are in tune with customer demand trends and beat a lot of competitors to the punch.
Can you offer any advice to other online retailers looking for the next step in order to grow?
One of the main things we’ve learnt – particularly this year – is that being agile and adapting your business model and sales strategies to the situation at hand can pay dividends. You need to change in line with consumer demand. As an online business, we are lucky that marketplaces we use provide a wealth of data and we can use this to our advantage!
For all e-commerce businesses, diversification is also key. While it might be best to start with a focused approach, do not hesitate to pursue multiple channels.
Finally, you need to nail the basics. It might sound boring, but hard work, dedication and continuous reinvestment in your business is key to growth. There is no way around that.
How do you plan to work with Fruugo going forward?
We are currently on a roll with Fruugo and we envision this continuing in the foreseeable future. Since we first started trading on the platform a few years ago it has gone from being just one more sales channel for us to utilise to being something we keep in mind when devising our overall strategies.
Our experience this year has truly demonstrated how valuable Fruugo can be, so as we continue managing the twists and turns of the current retail climate we are sure we’ll find other ways to make use of the platform to further grow our sales and expand into new markets.Click below to share this article