Fitness, sewing and outdoor furniture big sellers for Ideal World


Jamie Martin, CEO of Ideal Shopping Direct, has shared the secrets to their 2020 success

The leading UK home shopping retailer achieved record sales of £150.6m last year, an increase of 16% year-on-year, with pre-tax profits of £8m.

In addition, the company has estimated the return of nearly 22,000 previous customers and more than 36,000 new customers during the past year alone.

The growth has been attributed to the business’s agility throughout the pandemic, as well as flexible supply chain agreements in the face of Brexit and a reduced dependence on private-label brands.

“In the early days, as well as being open and available for consumers, we were also able to move quickly by bringing forward a lot of stock,” explained Jamie Martin, chief executive officer of IDS.

“Early on, we had fitness equipment a lot of online retailers didn’t have, which attracted many new customers who were desperately searching for ways to work out at home.”
Average monthly searches for fitness equipment increased by 166%, meaning the business needed to move quickly to meet demand. It experienced a 40% increase in fitness sales alone, as well as a 96% increase in lockdown bike sales from April 2020 to March 2021.
The start of the pandemic also saw an increase in sewing machines sales for the Create & Craft side of the business.

Martin said: “Many sewing enthusiasts started helping out making face coverings and gowns to help those on the front line as they struggled to get PPE.

"Many people decided to invest in or upgrade to a new machine. Others just wanted to start sewing again or as a new hobby.”

Last year the business saw 45% year-on-year growth for sales of sewing machines, with stock selling out as quickly as it was delivered. The company has already achieved its 2021 forecast, with sewing machine orders having tripled in volume.
The business also capitalised on the consumer demand for outdoor and leisure products during last year's pandemic heatwave – demand for rattan furniture increased by 600%.

The ISD infrastructure also provided the foundations for stable growth amidst the uncertainty, said Martin. 

“As many big known brands closed stores, this created a unique opportunity for us as many brands came to us for distribution,” he said.

“Our branded product count has now gone up considerably. And these are brands that maybe wouldn’t have considered it pre-Covid, including Clarks Shoes and Regatta.”

During the last 12 months, ISD has also reduced the dependence on private-label brands, particularly at Create and Craft, with more than 30 manufacturers of craft supplies added to the product assortment.

It is a shift in strategy that is directly benefiting growth right across the business. “We doubled the sales of our own brand yarn business, Deramores, in 2020," said Martin. 

"This was through an increased margin through selling more of our own brand products as well as carefully sourcing other products to achieve better margins. In an increasingly competitive market, we were able to gain back market share.
“It would be too easy to point to changing consumer habits, increased time at home and lockdowns as the secret to our success and simply say we were in the right place at the right time.
“Before the pandemic we were already well on the way with our digital transformation, which laid the foundations to navigate these choppy waters. And while we may have seen organic growth on our Ideal World TV shopping channel of around 30 to 40% in some weeks during the pandemic, the reality is that our business is now more effective and cost-efficient.

"We’ve done this by identifying and making the right strategic changes, whether trimming cost efficiency, margin efficiency or enhancing overall consumer appeal. It’s these small but essential tweaks that all add up at the same time to make the business more profitable.
“By continuing to build on our solid foundations, innovate and tweak our business in new ways our evolution and growth is continuing apace.”