15 inspiring digital businesses in Gloucestershire

When the pandemic forced firms to embrace digital like never before, some Gloucestershire businesses have showed how to truly capitalise on this move.

One of the major impacts of the pandemic on businesses has been forcing a focus on digital technologies like never before, with some firms in Gloucestershire delivering extraordinary success stories.

From business-saving moves to significantly increasing turnover, SoGlos highlights 15 businesses in the county that have truly harnessed the full potential of cyber.

About the sponsor – ReformIT

ReformIT is an IT support specialist headquartered in Cheltenham, covering the UK. Its skilled technicians can advise on all IT matters, including computer and internet security; software; cloud solutions; IT support and managed services such as VoIP Telephone Services; and website hosting.

From a fully out-sourced IT department to third-line support and project management, ReformIT will customise its services to fit the requirements of any business.

For more information, visit ReformIT.

1. Cheltenham Festivals

With its entire business model aimed at putting bums on seats, the pandemic could well have been a fatal blow to Cheltenham Festivals, with the charity explaining how close it came to collapse.

But the organisation that delivers the town’s literature, jazz, science and music festivals was saved in part thanks to the generosity of its patrons and sponsors and in part thanks to an incredible shift to online. As all four of its flagship festivals embraced digital, the world was watching – and so were plenty of paying customers too, which has helped the charitable organisation survive the hardest times and continue its good work.

2. Paperback Shop

Already a master of Amazon, this otherwise fiercely independent Fairford-based Paperback Shop made the decision long ago to embrace online in its entirety.

It already had good supply chains and a grasp of what its customers wanted when the pandemic came, so although it did not predict the tsunami of demand that swept in, it was able to stay upright and ride the wave.

In 2019, it was building towards a £30 million turnover and by the end of 2020 it was talking about that figure reaching £50 million.

3. Truffle Hunter

Its truffle-infused food and beverages have little to do with the digital world – but there is no doubting that Truffle Hunter’s success is in no small part down to its online shop.

The business employs around 45 staff and in the last four years has reported 200 per cent growth, with turnover expected to exceed £8m. In 2021, it won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for international trade after overseas sales grew more than eight-fold in six years, with customers in the United States, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong and Japan.

4. When in Rome

When in Rome’s eco-friendly box and tin packaging is a big draw for environmentally conscious lovers of good wine, not to mention Waitrose.

With the Five Valleys-headquartered firm sure there was more growth to be had, it took the bold step in 2021 of pitching for £400,000 on digital funding platform Crowdcube with 180 investors stepping forward to help the business achieve just that.

5. Keith Scarrott Shoes

Closing its high street store after 45 years in business because of the internet might not sound like something worth shouting about, but for Keith Scarrott Shoes, it was the success of its digital operation – supercharged by the arrival of the pandemic and lockdowns closing retail nationwide – that brought about its radical decision.

Already a master of its own digital destiny, an increase in sales via its website through the pandemic convinced owner, Sophie Scarrott, to make the bold move to go online only – and she hasn’t looked back since.

6. Nimble Elearning

Stonehouse-based Nimble Elearning is an expert in making online training easy for companies of any size and any sector, with adaptable off-the-shelf and bespoke online courses – and it has come to the aid of many through the pandemic.

Since its official launch in 2014, Nimble Elearning has attracted customers nationally and locally – and more recently, helped increasing numbers of firms to embrace new ways of training and development through blended learning.

7. Weird Fish

Clothing brand Weird Fish’s shops may have been closed through much of the early pandemic, but it didn’t stop the Gloucestershire business netting a 100 per cent-plus increase in annual sales.

As retail was reopening in April 2021, the Tewkesbury-headquartered firm revealed it achieved a 108 per cent increase in sales overall and 354 per cent up-lift in online sales. Not surprisingly, it also announced a new focus on digital investment, too.

8. &Sons

Cheltenham men’s fashion label &Sons has enjoyed a year of success despite the hardships of the pandemic, with turnover up 300 per cent in 2021.

The formerly online-only business even felt comfortable enough to open a high street store in 2021 – with its stylish, experiential shop on Clarence Street in Cheltenham giving customers a chance to try on its vintage-inspired clothes, as well as order and have them delivered the next day. It has also opened an American distribution depot, too.

9. BookCheck

Stroud-headquartered BookCheck has 60-plus staff, serving clients big and small nationwide with its bookkeeping and management information service. Founded in 1994 by Anthony Pilkington, the firm was an early convert to cloud-based technology, using it for outsourced digital bookkeeping, before the phrase was even invented.

The world is now catching up and BookCheck’s ability to transfer client’s accounting systems to the most up to date platforms, like Xero, with the benefits of custom apps, has led to a spin-off business – BookCheck Xero MAD Ltd – to cope with the demand.

10. Alice Garrett

Alice Caroline, owner and founder of Alice Garrett, started selling Liberty fabric in 2012 from her home in the Cotswolds. Today her business sells its Liberty fabric, sewing kits, haberdashery, patterns and accessories to a worldwide audience through its retail website – and is a Queen’s Award winner, too.

Overseas demand has grown over the last six years by a total of 206 per cent and currently accounts for 45.7 per cent of total sales, with its top five markets being the USA, France, Japan, Australia and Denmark.

11. Ocere

Queen’s Award-winning SEO performance and content creation specialist, Ocere, has just made the headlines after its sale to French digital marketing agency, VVWEB.

At the point of sale in January 2022, Ocere had more than 220 active clients across a range of sectors including gaming, technology and finance, in more than 40 languages. Turnover was estimated at £6 million with the business having grown 63 per cent in 2021 and 113 per cent in 2020.

12. Bamboo Technology

Celtenham-headquartered Bamboo Technology has continued to expand, announcing the acquisition of Worcestershire IT firm TechTeam Limited at the end of 2021.

In 2019 it acquired Cheltenham-based Tech Op Solutions and, at the start of the pandemic, revealed its new headquarters at Gloucestershire College’s Cheltenham campus – all of which positions it well as the county awaits the emergence of the nearby Golden Valley Development, establishing its position as the cyber capital of the UK.

13. Emma Willis

Shirtmaker Emma Willis is best-known to customers at its up-market Jermyn Street store in London, but it produces its sought-after shirts and other accessories for men at its Gloucester headquarters, the historic Bearland House.

Despite its London store being shut through the lockdowns of the pandemic, it managed to double sales thanks to its online shop and now boasts a world-wide customer base.

14. Farrar & Tanner

Cheltenham-based luxury bespoke gifts business, Farrar & Tanner, is on track to reach a £10 million turnover by 2024, after a rush to online shopping saw its sales increase 190 per cent in a year.

Early lockdowns saw new customers turning to online gift shopping and trying the Gloucestershire business for the first time – and they show no signs of going away, with the increased demand creating 40 new jobs through the festive period in 2021.

15. Republiqe

London Fashion Week 2021 saw the launch of what was billed as the world’s first all-digital clothing collection. The firm behind the headline-grabbing ethical innovation was none other than Stroud-based fashion house, Republiqe.

Customers’ garments are e-fitted by Republiqe’s in-house 3D tailors, with the final results emailed across to consumers so that they can be posted online on social media.

For more information about ReformIT, visit ReformIT.

By Andrew Merrell

Follow SoGlos on LinkedIn and sign-up to the weekly SoGlos business newsletter for the very latest Gloucestershire business news stories.

© SoGlos
Wednesday 19 January 2022

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