In the ScaleUp Dashboard 2020 special edition ”Scaleups in times of crisis” we offer an overview of how Dutch scaleups have been dealing with the coronacrisis. Scaleups are vulnerable during a crisis, but are innovative and agile enough to quickly adapt to new circumstances. In this case study, we investigate how the fashion retailer MyJewellery managed to maintain their fast-growth despite the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The perspective for our economy is not bright at the moment, yet this scaleup, one of the Top250 scaleups in the Netherlands, is confident it can continue to grow.
“Risk diversification and rapid decision-making: how we quickly averted the crisis situation”
MyJewellery is a fashion brand and online retailer. Founder Sharon Hilgers launched her first jewellery collection online in 2011. Since then, the company has seen success after success. With a successful online shop, 13 physical boutiques and partnerships with several online retailers, MyJewellery’s collection has a broad audience and the scaleup was already one of fastest growing companies in the Netherlands in 2019. Their plan for 2020 was to keep growing at an even faster rate, but the outbreak of COVID-19 forced them to adapt quickly to a new reality: “When it became clear that some suppliers from China had to close their doors because of the spread of the virus, we realised that the coronacrisis could be a barrier to our growth,’’ according to Vilmar Bliekendaal, Business developer at MyJewellery.
The first blow
For the first time, the young scaleup experienced the effects of a crisis. Shortly after the outbreak of the crisis in the Netherlands, MyJewellery was forced to temporarily close its physical stores and stop opening new stores, resulting in the departure of several employees. “We grew very fast so we opened a lot of stores, we had to stop this. As a result, many people within the retail team and staff in the stores were out of work”.
The focus on e-commerce
‘’However, we quickly made the right decisions to turn the crisis into an opportunity,” Bliekendaal maintains. Within a few days, MyJewellery joined the online trend and the online sales market gained momentum around April. With a necessary shift in the workforce to logistics and online services, MyJewellery decided to fully focus on the online retail market. As early as May 2020, the online branch experienced a growth of 200%, thanks to a dedicated focus on this sales market.
MyJewellery stresses the importance of spreading risk across multiple sales markets to bridge the coronacrisis. “The most important lesson for us is that you need to spread business models / cash flows as much as possible’. This applies to both your suppliers and your customers. ‘’We are now also looking more at the international market. Now there is a global pandemic, but there may also be a more local crisis in the future. If something happens in the Netherlands, you want to be able to take that hit abroad. We are now seeing that it is strategically very important to have diversification in this way. Then you have a spread not only in business models but also across economies. Then you are more stable in certain crisis scenarios. Now it is even clearer to us that we need to speed this up and do something with it.”
Plans for the future
MyJewellery’s plan for the future is to continue to grow and innovate as scaleups do. For the time being, MyJewellery has not used the government’s support packages for companies. “We didn’t qualify for the NOW-scheme, then we decided not to apply for it anymore because we don’t really need it. There are plenty of other companies that need it more”. The fact that online retail has grown so fast does not mean that MyJewellery wants to give up its other markets. “We have decided to temporarily abandon the offline side, but still to continue investing in the markets that are doing well.” Innovation remains in the company’s DNA: “We remain a company that is growing and must not be afraid to seize opportunities.”
Want to read more scaleup stories and find out more about the scaleup landscape in times of crisis? Visit our ScaleUp Dashboard webpages (in English and Dutch) or directly download your own English copy of “Scaleups in times of crisis” here and the Dutch version here!