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HomeFEATURESSable: Balancing both physical and digital businesses with Covid-19

Sable: Balancing both physical and digital businesses with Covid-19

Sable hair salon

Five years ago, The Register sat down with a Wellington hair salon that was taking the e-commerce market by storm. Talking to Sable’s Anthea Digby-Smith in 2017 we asked how she managed the rapid growth in the e-commerce industry while balancing her popular salon of the same name.

“Owning my own Salon has always been a dream of mine and I haven’t looked back since.”

Anthea Digby-Smith, 2017

Five years, a pandemic, multiple lockdowns and a parliament occupation later, we caught up with Digby-Smith to ask her what’s changed, what she’s learned and what the future holds for Sable.

Over the past five years, so many things have changed in the retail landscape, what are some of the major changes that have happened to Sable?

The unpredictability of business. Sometimes we have dead months and sometimes we have good months. During lockdown, our online store did really well, but then we would get a drop off when it was back to normal. We would see real uncertainty with this type of stuff, especially with ecommerce after each government announcement.

Even the parliament occupation in early 2022 really affected our business. For three weeks we were at a standstill. I was shocked at how bad it was, it was so creepy how quiet it was, it was worse than the pandemic.

One thing that remains the same after five years is some of the most popular products at Sable, with many of the brands they hold such as Olaplex products having a cult following. When they release a new product it definitely attracts a crowd.

Sable hair salon founder Anthea Digby-Smith
Anthea Digby-Smith.

During the pandemic, what have been some of the biggest challenges you faced?

Due to the uncertainty, we are having to forecast more. We are holding onto more stock than before. Like everyone else, we were having some supply chain issues due to the pandemic. We are having to wait months and months for products, sometimes being late to items that were introduced in the United States six months to nearly a year ago.

Larger companies, such as Cult Beauty and Adore Beauty have also started shipping to New Zealand and because of that we are missing out on a big portion of sales. Because of the pandemic we have stalled. Since Covid-19 we have also seen a lot more competitors now because the lockdown has affected them. Back then we could proudly say that we were the only place in the country to offer these things, but because of the virus we are competing with more people.

How have you overcome these, what were some of your strategies?

One of the main things we are doing is we are trying to be more engaged with our customers through social media with our YouTube and our email newsletters. What we are trying to do is put more of a face to the brand. We can tell people want a connection on social media and that is what we are trying to do.  We got quizzes on our website that allows engagement as well.

Not only with the pandemic but having to compete with the larger companies we are looking back at the fact that we work with clients. Because we work with clients first-hand, we are listening in on what they want and their concerns and working on that. Because of the pandemic we have become more of a problem-solver.

Introducing our own hair accessory range, Gildie, was helpful. We saw what was trending and was able to source them really quickly. Our claw clips and press clips were very popular during the pandemic.

The last time we talked to Sable, you predicted a growth of $200,000 – how did that go?

Since 2017 we have gone bigger, we have reached $200,000 ages ago; we have actually passed it. We have reached $300,000 and have been for the last couple of years. But with the pandemic we can’t forecast a high number as we have stalled over the past few years, but we are hoping to reach $350,000, maybe even $400,000 if it is a good year.

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Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles, The Register and Idealog. To get in touch with her, email bernadette.basagre@scg.net.nz