Barnsley craft business increases online sales three-fold during Covid

A crafty Barnsley business which nearly unravelled at the start of the pandemic has come out stronger thanks to soaring sales and a new business model.

Tuesday, 12th January 2021, 11:38 am

Wool Couture, the brainchild of chunky knitting entrepreneur Claire Gelder, has seen online sales grow by a phenomenal 300 per cent during lockdown as more people have turned to needlecraft as a comforting and rewarding ‘stay at home’ hobby.

The company, which sells knitting, crochet, weaving and macrame craft kits, yarn and tools to customers in 42 countries, went into the pandemic with an annual turnover of £1 million and expects this to grow three or even four-fold in 2021.

It has recruited nine new staff to keep on top of the surge in demand.

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This outcome is in contrast to the first few weeks of the coronavirus outbreak when Claire’s supply chains froze - wool manufacturers closed and knitting needle makers switched to making masks. Trade fairs were cancelled and Wool Couture’s Brierley-based shop was shut.

Claire said: “The initial shock of Covid hit us hard like everyone and I think I lay on the settee for three weeks wondering what on earth I was going to do.

“But on our return to work after that initial shut down, we made the place Covid-safe and found we had an unprecedented number of orders waiting for us and more pouring in. We had to work very quickly to change our business model and ensure we could deliver high quality products safely to thousands of new and existing customers.”

Claire shut down Wool Couture’s retail shop and gave more space to a streamlined ‘pick, pack and ship’ operation – doubling the workforce in this area.

The catalogue has been narrowed to ensure it only features products they can quickly get out of the door to customers keen to start knitting.

She has also outsourced functions such as marketing and manufacture to ensure the team at Wool Couture can focus on customer service and logistics.Claire said: “We’ve basically changed our little craft company into a huge 100 per cent online seller and modified our product range to ensure we can still deliver on quality and creativity.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.