How has the pandemic affected UK businesses?

Wattbike CEO Richard Baker tells Rebecca Morley about the challenges the company has faced with surging costs throughout the past 18 months

While much of the bike industry has witnessed soaring demand during the pandemic, many manufacturing businesses feel they have been ‘largely forgotten’ by the Government amidst spiralling costs within international shipping and parts. This is the case of Nottingham-based company Wattbike, which, having been forced to adjust its prices, has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to intervene on the ongoing international shipping ‘chaos’ on behalf of manufacturers, consumers and businesses up and down the country who are bearing the brunt.

“Like most businesses during the pandemic, we needed to immediately batten down the hatches when the first lockdown hit as it came with so much uncertainty,” says CEO Richard Baker. “Even though we were seeing strong sales pre-pandemic, there was a huge surge in sales during lockdown which, on top of a fast-growing business, meant we had other major challenges to contend with.

“I think we have done a good job of overcoming many of these issues with much of the focus on our customers and supply. As we look forward, we will continue to focus on these with an eye on the future, to continue our growth and add more for our Wattbike community.”

For customers, the biggest impact has been lead times, Baker continues, which was stretched to over 12 weeks at its peak. “I’m delighted to say that we have worked extremely hard to improve this which means we are currently delivering bikes with a one-two week lead time now. The next 12 months will still be challenging for all manufacturers and we’ll continue to focus on this to ensure timely delivery of the bikes. Another well-reported factor has been the global freight issues and rising cost associated with this. Over the past 12 months, we have seen our costs rise five-fold whilst material costs continue to rise.”

So what should the Government be doing to help UK businesses? “We are seeing increasing shipping costs driven by factors, including increased demand for goods, saturated ports, and too few ships, dockworkers and truckers,” says Baker. “These issues are too broad to be remedied by any single fix and are creating ripple effects across the UK and global supply chains.

“I would urge the Government to implement a series of measures to strengthen the resilience of businesses charged with supplying the nation’s economy with everything it needs. The Government can and should provide more support in order to facilitate more employment in the UK supply chain sector, more skilled workers and better infrastructure. With COVID-19, Brexit, and new technology creating change in the way goods move around the world, it is imperative that the Government make this an agenda item in order to support UK business and brands.”

For the year ahead, Baker predicts increasing costs from both supply chains and raw materials. “However, and more in our control, we will see greater focus on the consumer and enhancing their experience. We have a supercharged focus on this, in particular, how we can enhance your experience of owning a Wattbike and how they can improve their health and performance.”

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