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Silvertree racing to meet demand as online orders at startups spike amid coronavirus

via YouTube:

Cape Town based investment company Silvertree Holdings is pressing suppliers to keep providing its stable of ecommerce startups with stock, amid a surge in ecommerce orders in the last two weeks following the onset of the coronavirus.

Commenting in an email last Friday (20 March) to Ventureburn on the effect the virus was having on orders among its largely ecommerce portfolio, Silvertree Holdings managing director Paul Cook (pictured above) said the investor’s biggest challenge currently has been to keep fast-moving products in stock.

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The investor has had to limit sales volume on some high demand items, and spend long hours talking to suppliers, he said.

“Our warehouse teams have so far been able to keep dispatching orders on time, despite the flood — unlike some online retailers elsewhere in the world that have had to close the sites for any new orders,” he said.

Silvertree is pressing suppliers to keep providing its ecommerce startups with stock, amid a surge in orders with the onset of the coronavirus

Demand has surged at a number of the investor’s portfolio companies.

At Faithful to Nature, which provides organic and natural products to customers via its online portal, order volumes have doubled in the last two weeks, said Cook.

This while, another of the investor’s companies, PetHeaven, which sells pet food and products online, had seen a “huge” increase in sales, despite most customers being on regular subscriptions for their pet supplies, he said.

He said UCook, which sells kits with food that customers can use to make meals, has had “record” order volume on cook-at-home mealkits.

PriceCheck, which allows online shoppers to compare millions of products from hundreds of retailers, had sent 75% more online users to merchants last week compared to the week before, he said.

Top searches

Cook said leading search terms at PriceCheck last week were “hand sanitiser” and “face masks”, but also “non-contact thermometers” and even “isopropyl alcohol blend” — evidence that online users are trying to source ingredients for sanitisers, he said. “Inverters and generators, leading search terms just a few weeks ago, have slowed down a lot,” he added.

“Particularly fast-moving products on Faithful to Nature are hand sanitisers and toilet paper, but we’re also selling immune support (eg vitamin C) as fast as we can source it, and are starting to see upticks in home cleaning, household essentials, personal care and pantry essentials,” he said.

He said between managing the extra order volume, we’ve also had to focus on staff and customer safety and continuity in Silvertree’s businesses.

These he said, included:

  • Moving to mandatory non-touch temperature screening of anyone entering any Silvertree company building.
  • Offering hand sanitiser at premises and promoting regular hand washing and the use of protective clothing (eg masks) for interactions. Silvertree has also moved to dramatically reduce the presence of items touched by multiple people, by for example ordering that office kitchens close and requiring staff to bring their own cups and mugs to the office.
  • Moving many warehouse teams to shift-based working, to reduce the number of people in contact with each other.
  • Instructing staff that can, to work from home.
  • Working intensively with suppliers and delivery partners to make sure they have the same measures in place, and to help them scale up to meet increased demand.

Cook said Silvertree has also been looking at ways that the investor can help the broader economy. “Part of that is making sure our warehouses are safe and keep operating, and we will keep paying staff, even if any do catch the virus,” he pointed out.

“We’ve also taken measures like introducing a dramatically accelerated listing process on Faithful to Nature, listing about 150 new products this week alone and so helping suppliers that have lost their ability to reach customers in offline locations.

“We’re also reaching out to farmers markets and similar locations that have been forced to close,” he added.

Read more: Department to set up fund to help SA small businesses affected by coronavirus
Read more: SA venture capitalists prepare for tough times ahead with onset of coronavirus
Read more: SA tech startups put in place measures to tackle coronavirus

Featured image: Silvertree Holdings managing director Paul Cook (YouTube)

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