In our latest feature in City A.M. we interview our client The Internet Gardener, a thriving small business with both online and bricks & mortar presences.
Owners and directors, Richard and Sue Baxter, talk to us about the benefits of finance for business and why they’ve set their sights on software development.
What does your company do?
We launched The Internet Gardener, a specialist garden and home retailer online 11 years ago. In that time, we’ve seen customer demand go from strength to strength, supporting the more recent addition of a showroom in Nottingham, enabling our customers to explore a wide range of our products in a more traditional setting and helping us to meet the needs of two, very different customer audiences.
Our son Andrew is also heavily involved in the business, in fact, the idea of selling on the internet was his. He’d worked weekends at a garden centre at the time and queried why they didn’t sell their good on the internet – the owner had dismissed it as a silly idea, but we saw the merit and 11 years on, it’s still proving a great success. As online presence developed however, we were also keen to look at new opportunities for business diversification, and software development was top of our list.
We’ve already developed a retail price checking tool, with interest from several of our suppliers who are keen to lease this product from us, providing us with an alternative cash flow stream and enhanced recognition from major suppliers.
What do you feel are the advantages of using finance for your business?
As a retail business subject to seasonal fluctuations, big investments can often fall at our quieter times, and so spreading these costs can be helpful. Finance has helped our business in several ways, predominantly supporting us to make the most of opportunities that would otherwise have been missed.
LDF has helped us with several specific projects, from the purchase of garden furniture containers, taking advantage of out of season discounts, to the extension of our existing Nottingham showroom, letting us maximise pre-season stock levels and increasing our sales volume as a result.
We see finance as a catalyst for our business, supporting new opportunities that we may not otherwise have planned for or been able to otherwise deliver, helping us to do things sooner or to greater business benefit.
Where do you hope the business will be in three years’ time?
We aim to continue the growth of our retail business, both on and offline and we see a software development as key to this. Managing this however, presents its own set of demands, as often these will need to be planned and delivered in continual three-month blocks, thus is the rapid rate of change in the industry. We have to be as agile as possible in our approach to this development, so being able to react to these changes quickly is essential and finance can help with this.
Times are changing in retail and we’ve certainly seen a big shift in the e-commerce world over the past 18-months. There are more mobile searches taking place now than ever before, and Google Shopping costs are rising, with some of our competitors already seeing the impact of these.
We see technical advancements and maintaining relationships with our major suppliers, and Google as a key factor in moving the business forward, and helping us to stay ahead of the curve.