In the past 12 months Everything Hygiene has seen its turnover triple. As Des Stevenson explains, extensive planning meant the business could cope – and he is confident that the company can continue to grow in the future
It has been a hectic year for Des Stevenson, managing director at Everything Hygiene. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, orders for the hygiene products his company supplies rocketed almost overnight.
“Within the UK – even in February 2020 – we could see what was starting to happen,” he explains. “But we were able to get sanitizer in when the supermarkets were struggling; I remember selling two pallets of hand sanitizer in two hours!
“As with many companies in the industry, we struggled to get the basics like disposable gloves and FFP masks and, when we could get them, we were paying far more for the product – but still selling out in minutes.
“We also have a retail store and were inundated with customers buying hand soap, sanitiser, gloves, masks, toilet roll, disposable aprons etc., and we could service most of that business. Our turnover in the retail part of the business at that point was more than the B2B part of the business.”
Everything Hygiene was able to cope with the unexpected surge in demand because of the extensive planning that had gone into the business, such as securing supply lines and establishing the warehouse, when it was set up by Des and his business partner Dave Irvine in 2018.
Both men have extensive experience – Dave has more than 40 years in hygiene and Des has more than a decade in office products. After seeing the company they had previously worked for grow their hygiene and PPE business substantially, they believed they could help office supply dealers compete with larger companies in the office supplies and hygiene market.
“Everything Hygiene focused on becoming a dealer wholesaler with PPE, hygiene and janitorial supplies, just as the OT Wholesale and VOWs of this world are with office supplies,” Des says. “We offer great products at a great price and provide every dealer with the backup they need and want.
“I learned very quickly with my last employer that you can give account managers the best products, and best prices to sell at but, if they are not confident with a product, they will stay away from discussing it, or offering the option to their customer. We understand that, in order to allow dealers to start supplying restaurants, hotels, contract caterers etc., they need to be in a position where they have a hygiene specialist to fall back on.”
Diversifying Everything Hygiene’s product range has also helped. “As a wholesaler, we have been able to diversify our business to the extent that we now say to customers that our business name is ‘Everything Hygiene’ – but just take off the ‘Hygiene’ and go with ‘Everything’!” says Des. “It wasn’t easy to do, but we had many suppliers who had dealt with Dave or myself, historically, and they could see our focus and vision for the business and backed us. We have such good relationships with our suppliers and that helps us to support the dealers.
“Diversifying our business was the number one reason why we have been so successful in the current market and has helped us grow as a business during the pandemic. We were lucky that the business had taken the decision, early on, that we would diversify into the PPE side of things.”
Des believes that dealers should look at diversifying their offerings into areas such as hygiene. “The hygiene market will only continue to increase in size,” he says. “Before the pandemic hit, the UK hygiene market was worth about £5 billion, and overnight that increased.
“Due to COVID-19 many people will have changed their habits, including washing and sanitising their hands more, wiping surfaces more often – the list goes on. More and more of the products purchased by businesses will be in the hygiene category.”
This diversity also helped Everything Hygiene to deal with the changing needs of both dealers and customers over the course of the pandemic. “For months we were selling gloves, sanitiser, anti-bacterial hand soap, etc,” Des says. “When the first lockdown eased that changed to virucidal surface wipes and hand gel/soap dispensers, floor stands, COVID-19 warning signs etc. It then moved on to virucidal multi-surface cleaners, which took off as soon as the chemical industry released a product that could kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“Trying to keep up-to-date has been tough, but we have managed to do it. Many dealers will need to be prepared for office returns as the priority will be to prepare the workplace for staff and – even before a pen has been ordered – they will be ordering hygiene or PPE products.”
Des is now looking to build on Everything Hygiene’s success, and the company will shortly launch its e-commerce site, which will enable customers to browse and purchase products from over 50 suppliers.
“When lockdown is lifted, and businesses begin to return to their offices, our business will continue to grow,” he says confidently. “As a result of the pandemic there has been a shift in consumer buying behaviour; consumers have adopted a single-use policy with a lot of hygiene products, such as mop heads, which means high volume orders. Also, offices and workplaces will be required to supply specific hygiene products to comply with tighter hygiene controls.
“Dave and I are passionate about being the number one supplier of hygiene and PPE supplies to the office supplies industry. I want Everything Hygiene to be a company all dealers know they need to speak to if they are looking to move into the PPE and hygiene market.”