How SafetyBuyer Succeeded During the Pandemic

3rd March 2021

Despite the majority of businesses facing their biggest challenge ever due to the coronavirus pandemic, some companies have seen success during this time. We shine a light on businesses that have been successful during these unprecedented times to find out how they’ve risen above difficult challenges.

In today’s spotlight is SafetyBuyer, a one-stop-shop for health and safety products, which was founded by brothers Ian and Kevin Rowe in 2012. SafetyBuyer has worked with more than 30,000 customers, from small businesses to nationwide conglomerates, over the last nine years and despite circumstances, saw growth over the last year. We spoke to co-owner Kevin Rowe to find out how SafetyBuyer was able to navigate the COVID pandemic.

Did you have concerns about the success of your business due to the current climate?

We entered the first lockdown with great uncertainty - did anyone really know what would unfold? When would we be able to reopen? What would the economy look like in the months ahead? Thankfully, we entered lockdown in a position of relative strength and we tried to reassure ourselves that we could withstand a reasonable period of inactivity if this transpired.

Was your business planning to expand before the coronavirus pandemic? If so, how has this affected your plans?

We did hold back on some plans and took a position to protect what we had for most of 2020. We accepted that success could be described as simply holding our ground and being ready to move forward again once the economy reopened.

How have you had to adapt your products or services to maintain business continuity?

Firstly, we looked at our supply chain and market sectors to identify quick-win products that we could add to our range that would enable a return to work and meet the COVID-secure objectives that many businesses would need to implement as we came out of the first lockdown. 

We realised that construction had never really locked down completely and, as this is a key sector for us, we gave particular focus here. We also took an early decision not to offer personal protective equipment (PPE) for coronavirus due to supply issues and the volatility with prices. 

Our customers still valued reliability, so we focussed on offering solutions we knew we could deliver. We didn't set out to sell the most of this or that but wanted to sell enough to keep the business moving forward in the long term.

What measures have you taken to ensure you can continue to do business?

I think our size helped us, we are flexible and dynamic and enjoy a real sense of unity around business objectives and shared success. For these reasons, we were able to adopt a combination of remote working and changes in the workplace to ensure all staff had the confidence to return to work and remain productive and motivated.

Are there any measures that you will keep if we ever return to ‘normal’?

Some of the opportunities for working from home can be maintained to give some greater flexibility, as well as workplace hygiene routines. These simple, low-cost measures could help keep seasonal bugs and infections at lower levels too and don't add any burden to the business.

In your opinion, what is it that has made your products/services so successful during the pandemic?

Relevance, reliability, flexibility and speed. We kept on delivering all the basics to a consistently high standard.

What do you think the future of your company might look like in a post-COVID world?

We're positive about the future. We've shown resilience, innovation, flexibility and great teamwork. We have worked really closely with our suppliers and strengthened our reputation with our customers as people who can be relied on. Our business experience and confidence have grown during this period and our future vision and strategy have come into sharper focus.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from the coronavirus pandemic?

We try to be a learning organisation and improve and adapt as part of business as usual. But, one of the big lessons we would take into the future growth plans for the business is to have enough reserves to sustain or buy time in the event of an unforeseen crisis. If you have the luxury of time or even a modest amount of time, you will generally make better decisions than if you are under immediate pressure to save a difficult situation.

Finally, what advice would you give someone that is perhaps struggling with their business now?

Not sure what advice I would give, without knowing them or their business. If they have been successfully running their business before COVID, then they are most likely a self-starter and a good problem solver, so keep going and speak honestly with people they trust and include their team in any recovery plans.

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Safety Buyer
A one-stop-shop for health and safety products.