Captain Fawcett Ltd on ‘Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip Regardless’ during the COVID-19 crisis

Captain Fawcett

On 15th March Captain Fawcett’s commercial business came to nigh on an immediate halt.  As for all companies in these most peculiar times, this was clearly of huge concern. In our case this is Captain Fawcett’s 10th Anniversary year and we were heading for our best annual turn-over to date.

As a company the options were to close for the duration and mothball - or to plough on and keep going.  Captain Fawcett sells a range of simply ‘First Class Gentlemen’s Grooming Requisites’ both wholesale and retail worldwide with personal orders available online via our website.  Although these direct sales account for only a small percentage of our annual turnover (12%) it was nonetheless important to be seen to be ‘Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip Regardless’, which incidentally is a company trademark and press on!

We reluctantly furloughed a number of staff and run with the barest minimum essential crew, however we never actually closed, and that has turned out to have stood the company in good stead. All management and creatives, including founder and owner Richie Finney agreed to take a 20% reduction in their monthly salary, although in truth  they were actually working considerably harder than normal, which is significant as Richie is by nature a driven character and on occasion an exacting taskmaster.

This difficult decision was taken not only in a bid to reduce company overheads but also to show solidarity with other members of the team who had been furloughed, thus demonstrating our customary ‘we are all in this together’ spirit.

The majority of the work necessary to keep Captain Fawcett afloat is just not possible to achieve remotely.  Therefore all government guidelines were followed to the letter, with precautions regarding safe distancing, provision of masks plus regular hand washing and sanitising. As a manufactory of cosmetics, our building was already scrupulously clean, however we went the extra mile and despite being a naturally sociable company, we split lunch breaks enabling staff to eat alone. 

There were a few staffing issues, with members of the team  who had not been furloughed rightfully concerned about coming into work, so we listened and acted on any points raised.  We also took some time to explain how the furlough system worked and why, due to the nature of the job, staying at home for 80% of a salary instead of coming into work for 100% was not a realistic or for that matter an available option.

As a company we decided to take advantage of all available assistance, such as a rate rebate and the interest free loan which was used to pay off existing loans, payment of which were compromised due to the sudden change in income and cashflow. However, we wanted to continue to pay all our bills, rent and suppliers promptly, rather than create any ill feeling. We have taken care to build up a great trustworthy business over many years and didn’t want to disrupt our hitherto good working relationships with our supply companies.

Our global social media profile is already significant, so we concentrated on raising it further, keeping up high quality content twice a day and shooting a number of fun and promotional films in house. This positive action contributed to a staggering 160% increase in internet sales during April alone.

Although our commercial sales had effectively been demolished, we ended our tax year in April up 4% on the previous year which, given the current world climate, was somewhat reassuring. We sell into over 40 countries and as the world is slowly stretching and awaking to an albeit new form of normality, we in turn are seeing our overseas sales begin to pick up.

On the back of this great news, we took an informed punt and have reinstated the crew at Fawcett HQ, although whether this was the right course of action will be shown in the fullness of time.

A company is only as good as its team members and it’s important to encourage a positive spirit. To that end, contrary to battening down the hatches and weathering the storm, instead we have not only continued with but actually accelerated our company’s growth plans.  This action will result in a whole host of new and exciting Captain Fawcett products being ready to be launched later in 2020.

Will it be Boom or Bust? All I can say is watch this space.

Meanwhile, there is another string to our bow...

Captain Fawcett has a sister company, McCavity’s Contract Fillers (every pun intended). It was created 3.5 years ago to manufacture and supply Captain Fawcett’s Moustache Wax, Beard Oils & Balms on demand and this it continues to do.  However, given the benefit of experience it was decided at the beginning of 2020 that McCavity’s needed to stand alone as a business and not rely on Captain Fawcett as its sole source of revenue.

This transpired to be somewhat fortuitous! With that in mind McCavity’s built a stand alone website & joined a number of contract filling industry professional organisations.  As a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic these agencies started to refer commercial hand sanitiser filling jobs to us. Due to the national emergency we did our bit, quickly shifted direction and to date have decanted over 32 metric tonnes into 50ml, 100ml, 250ml 1 litre & 5 litre containers.  This work continues, to the extent that, as well as employing 3 full time members of staff, we have had to engage a number of temporary staff to fulfil the demand.

As a direct result of the contract filling work Captain Fawcett was able to purchase a tonne of Hand Sanitiser Gel and this in turn has been packaged on brand. Sales of Captain Fawcett’s Handy Sanitiser are now contributing to the NHS by donating 10% of all proceeds to NHS Charities.

Of course the situation continues to shift and there is much uncertainty both in the UK and in our international markets.  However, there is a reason we trademarked the phrase ‘Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip Regardless’ and thus far at least, it’s a shared company attitude which appears to be lifting staff morale, keeping business on track and giving us all a ‘look ahead’ spirit.

Time will tell…time will indeed tell.

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