Why Frugi and TotsBots are celebrating post-lockdown

Known for its fun, colourful organic cotton clothing and recycled plastic outerwear, Cornish children’s wear brand Frugi has successfully navigated the Covid-19 crisis with some significant developments. As Frugi celebrates its 16th Birthday, two 2020 Queen’s Awards for Enterprise and some key milestones for its newly acquired reusable nappy brand TotsBots, the company’s sunny brand position remains optimistic post-lockdown. 

Sweet 16th Birthday 

Sixteen years ago, on June 1st, Frugi was born in a tiny Cornish cottage belonging to Lucy and Kurt Jewson who were on a mission to find beautiful, ethical clothing that would fit over their baby son’s cloth-nappied bum.  Fast forward to today, and Frugi is the UK’s leading organic children’s clothing brand found in over 500 retailers, 30 countries and online at www.welovefrugi.com

Two Queen’s Awards

This year Frugi has once again impressed the esteemed royal circuit.  The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are the most prestigious awards for UK businesses, recognising and encouraging outstanding achievements.  Frugi has swooped up not one, but TWO awards this year – the Sustainable Development Award and the International Trade Award – bestowing a major nod for their continuous efforts in global sustainability.  Frugi was one of only 4 companies to be awarded two Queen’s awards, and the only company to be awarded in both these categories, confirming Frugi’s outstanding commitment to trading globally as ethically and sustainably as possible.  

Navigating the Covid-19 Storm  

At the start of lockdown, CEO Hugo Adams’ main priority was – and continues to be – the health and safety of all its staff.  Like many retailers, when the lockdown was announced, Frugi was hit with an almost total reduction in their wholesale business almost overnight.  Nevertheless, sales from the company website significantly increased. Frugi’s warehouses in Helston, Cornwall, and the Netherlands continued to operate with rigorous guidelines in place.  Warehouse staff began working on split shits to reduce contact and started adhering to strict social distancing protocols. Sub-areas have been defined to reduce contact during shifts and staff breaks are rotated with at least a 2m distance from other team members.  PPE is available including gloves, masks and handwash stations and additional, regular cleaning is in place. 

After the health and safety of its employees, Adams’ second priority was to ensure the survival of the business.  Frugi employs 105 staff and TotsBots has 75 in the UK and various actions were taken in mid-March to minimise any damage. Frugi acted fast to realign production to keep factories operating and prevent cancelations with suppliers. Key staff worked tirelessly to repurpose fabric, rephase product ranges and quickly adapt to the new normal, even using virtual tours of its overseas factories to ensure that production kept moving off factory lines.  

As the bulk of business moved online and staff began working from home, Adams’ needed to ensure that staff were equipped with the right technology to do their jobs in a safe environment at home.  Based in Cornwall, most Frugi staff are proficient with remote working by using technology to communicate with suppliers and customers all over the world.  With a 70% female workforce who enjoy an already flexible schedule, moving the business away from an office-based location was an initial challenge, but due to this flexibility, the change was rapid and productive 

Other measures included senior staff taking a voluntary 30% reduction in salary, the furloughing of 40 staff, and a complete freeze to the marketing budget, all non-essential capital expenditure and new recruitment.  

Sales in the time of lockdown

With the sunny weather and families enjoying quality time in their gardens and parks, online orders have increased and boosted by a generous sale of current seasonal items.  During lockdown, analytics showed that Frugi customers spent more time on the site by browsing not only the new collections but also the additional content on offer, such as free downloadable games and puzzles to entertain children at home.   

Even with extreme lockdown measures in place, children keep growing, and babies keep being born.  With many bricks and mortar retailers closed, newborn baby clothing and leisure wear items have seen sales soar online with a 50% increase on the year.  In May, with temperatures reaching record highs, children’s swimwear sales have spiked and with the forecast of an imminent baby boom, Frugi are anticipating growth in sales for their organic Bloom maternity range.  But by far the most outstanding performance throughout the last 3 months has been Frugi’s reusable nappy business TotsBots, which experienced an incredible 300% increase on the year as parents struggled to buy disposables nappies and looked to reusables as a safe solution.  Reusable nappies not only save money in the long term, but they cut down significantly on landfill waste.  This unexpected benefit due to lockdown panic buying has moved Frugi to expand production on TotsBots as many parents make the switch a permanent buying option, saving not only their wallet but the environment as well. 

Return to a new normal 

As lockdown is gradually being lifted and people are venturing out of their homes, Frugi has adapted to a new normal.  Dealing with a few remaining challenges and some difficult decisions, Frugi is realigning departments and teams to the new work environment.  For instance, how Frugi sells and communicates with customers has changed permanently. Communication has advanced and the use of technology has progressed to a new level of flexible with their ethical and organic credentials more relevant today than ever.  Their three-year strategy has escalated, and the company is moving faster to develop the business at a more rapid pace.  The Frugi company website is being redesigned to relaunch in September with significant enhancements in content, customer service and the integration of new technology.  And now in June, most staff are being gradually brought back from furlough to work from home in part-time or full-time roles.

CEO Hugo Adams says, “We are relieved and grateful that Frugi has come out of lockdown in a healthy and stable financial position.  Thanks to our remarkable, dedicated staff, we are committed to moving on from this unprecedented crisis by remaining vigilant, prudent and mindful of our planet.”