Many of us feel as though this year has been a bit of a write-off. Our Auckland team has been in lockdown a lot this year, and we're desperate for a taste of normality. But, for our Melbourne-based colleague, working for Edwards & Co under Covid restrictions is all she's ever known.
Jackie is our Sales Manager and the only person in our team who works remotely all year round. (Don't worry, Jackie, we're hiring more Melbourne staff very soon!) So while New Zealanders enjoyed 2020 like nowhere else in the world, Jackie muddled through one after another newsworthy lockdown. We've kept in touch with Jackie over a weekly video call and watched with pride as she's taken the Edwards & Co brand Australia-wide.
1. Tell us about your background and how you came to work at Edwards & Co:
I began my employment with Edwards & Co on 1st June 2020. I am the Australian Sales Manager. I had unfortunately found myself redundant when Covid hit Australia in March 2020. After the initial shock, I knew I had to move quickly to remain in the nursery industry.
During my 15 years, I had worked for Britax, Boori and UppaBaby, so I was very familiar with all brands within the Australian market. However, the Edwards & Co Oscar was one stroller that had stood out to me since its arrival on the Australian market. I was aware Edwards & Co was an NZ company, and knowing that they did not have an Australian representative and were unable to fly across the ditch, I thought I would be bold and complete my resume. I sent it directly to Mark Edwards in May. I was pretty astonished to receive a response from Mark the next day, and we arranged for a chat on the phone the following week.
After our quick 5 min conversation, I put together what I thought could be an AU strategy and where Edwards & Co could fit into the market with my involvement. I had researched that, at the time, Edwards & Co was available in seven independent stores in Australia. Having sold to the majority of the independent and majors, I had the contacts to grow this brand enormously. Unfortunately, there was no position available at the time, but due to the pandemic, this quickly changed, and after a zoom call with Marks' husband, Christian, I was offered a job within the hour. I began employment one week later.
2. When you started, Covid was beginning to become a big 'thing' worldwide. What did your first three months look like in the role? How did Covid change things initially?
Mark had arranged to have samples sent to Australia, and I was ready to hit the ground running by 1st June. I quickly familiarised myself with the products, contacted our existing stores to introduce the Edwards & Co brand and had appointments to demonstrate the strollers to Melbourne and regional stores for the next couple of weeks. Then Victoria hit our second wave, and we went into lockdown on the 3rd week of June, initially for six weeks, but as we are all aware, this blew out to 112 days.
Covid turned my role upside down; I could not go to any store in Melbourne, Victoria or, in fact, in Australia. Most stores would never purchase a new range without having a demonstration, play, compare to other strollers and get the entire staff to give their opinion if they could/would sell. I discussed with Mark, tweaked the pricing, and started to email and phone everyone I knew in Australia that sold strollers and bassinets.
3. What have been the main challenges in your role so far?
Initially, the main challenge I had was not having an induction within the business, no one to ask face-to-face where to find specific files, and not getting to know all the people I work with personally.
Secondly, the biggest hurdle was not being able to travel; therefore, that would make it difficult to open up new accounts. Nevertheless, I persisted with the independent stores and urged them to try one Oscar Mx and Carry Cot. Each month we would offer a very exciting promo, and suddenly the 'stroller started rolling'.
The next challenge we had was not enough stock to supply our new eager retailers; it took us about six months to get the stock levels to keep sales growth momentum.
Finally, with the rapid covid outbreak, we could not rely on 'baby shows', which pre-Covid, had been a reliable strategy to get our brand in front of potential customers.
4. What is your favourite part about your role?
I am very passionate about this industry. I get very excited to see 'my' strollers in the street. I love working with a young, innovative team, and so looking forward to seeing Edwards & Co grow to become as big a brand in Australia as in New Zealand.
5. How has Edwards & Co grown in Australia since you started?
Within the past 14 months, I have increased the business from 7 accounts to 34 accounts with a growth of 300%. I am continually told how amazing our products are and when we will release our four wheels tandem stroller. Watch this space. We are going to be huge in 2022!