How Urban Rituelle pivoted its business in a matter of weeks

Do you remember what went through your mind when Covid-19 hit Australia and we all went into lockdown? Urban Rituelle founder, Leanne Haining, describes it in three words―Shock. Survival. Opportunity.

It was a bit of a manic playthrough of different ‘what-if’ scenarios and how the lockdown was going to affect the business and our team, she says.

“I spent the first days and nights thinking about how this could be the end for our 21-year journey,” she remembers.

“What would I do next? How could we wind up the business, how would I pay the school fees? What would happen to my aging parents? What about our staff member who was on a cruise and would have to go into 14 days of quarantine before she could return to the office. How would we pay the wages? How much money did we have and how long would it last? Could we run the business from our garage again? What would we do with all our excess stock?

“I was glued to news updates and government announcements and panicked by the growing lines outside Centrelink that I saw every day. It was hard to switch off.”

However, by about day three they had a plan of action, but they had to act quickly to find an opportunity and innovate.

In March, Urban Rituelle suspended all ordering and purchasing as all of its customers started closing their doors. The team’s working hours were reduced to a bare minimum and there was a cut back on all expenses. Tight cash flow budgets were put together to help the company survive.

Every meeting held was tightly focused on our plan of action and what we would all need to do as a team to keep the business open and the team employed, explains Haining.

They figured the only way the business would survive was by selling soaps and hand washes so they started to focus on that.

“But everyone wanted sanitisers, so that’s what we decided we needed to make, to keep us all employed. Within a week we had a big plan, which we executed in under a few weeks from concept to launch.”

Indeed, while hand sanitiser wasn’t part of Urban Rituelle’s offering at the time, it had the packaging, fragrance and production facilities to make a clean, effective hand sanitiser. Within eight days―after extensive research, personally driving around to local suppliers to secure the in-demand ingredients, printing labels in-house, mixing, testing, filling and then sharing the news on social media―Haining was ready to launch the initial product to market.

“The impacts of Covid-19 meant that we were understaffed and busier than normal, as sales of homewares such as candles, body wash and soaps increased, and we had very low inventory. It felt like the perfect storm.”

Haining says that the last few months have given the company the opportunity to shift its business model, to re-think its offering and innovate within the business and within the industry. 

“We believe there is going to be a big shift in global trends, with a focus on ‘back to nature’, ‘back to local’ and ‘back to community’. There is going to be a bigger focus on natural and organic as well as health and wellness. There is also a move away from fast fashion and towards conscious consumerism. 

“We are preparing our business for the new era, this is an opportunity to re-imagine, re-think and re-engineer the way we do business.” 

Want to read more? Check out the full article in our digital version of Giftguide Directory, which is out now!