How we are coping in the lock-down
Posted on April 22 2020
I was recently interviewed by the local Hawke's Bay newspaper on how we are coping (or not coping!) in lockdown. The kids requested ALL members of the family needed to be included which meant the chickens too.
Scroll down to read how the Little and Fox team has been getting on and what level 3 might look like for us, or click through to read the full article here.
From top end to end of line, Ahuriri’s flash fabric store is unlocking its doors in lockdown to provide an essential online service to those needing to keep their homes warm this winter. A staff of 10 will be keeping their distance while measuring, cutting and sewing curtain fabric to fill orders for Little and Fox customers. The fabric business’s first incarnation grew from owner Asha Payton’s “upholstery hobby” in her spare room in 2013, moving on to fill a former woolstore along West Quay with fabrics, rugs, lamps, plants, and curiosities from the likes of Ralph Lauren, Tommy Bahamas, Timorous Beasties and more.
“I learnt the art from a fantastic old man, Beau Hollyman, who lived not far from our house. I imported my first shipment of designer fabrics not long after this and it has gone from strength to strength ever since,” Asha says.
In November last year Little and Fox upped sticks and rolls of fabric to take up its new residence in the former Barron Imports building on the corner of Bridge St and the Ahuriri bypass. “It was a natural and organic step, it just felt right. Our old warehouse was amazing but it leaked, parking was bad and it was freezing in winter.” Asha says the new space still maintains the open warehouse feel with exposed beams and rustic wood. “The natural light from the angled glass ceiling is incredible, and it is a lot warmer. We have heaps of off-street parking around the back too.”
Both end of line fabrics and boutique ‘hard to find' brands are sold by the metre direct from the bolt which Asha says keeps prices competitive.
“Over the last couple of years, we have increased our stock to offer other unique home furnishings, rugs — both antique and new — lighting, throws, finished products like cushions and furniture, plus home accessories.”
She describes the first days of lockdown as a bit like, “What the hell just happened?”. “It took nearly two weeks for me to actually get my head around the situation and try and make sense of what the future may be looking like. Now that I've had time to think about it, staying connected and adapting to the ever-changing situation is key to staying afloat.”
She says it was important for their team to stick together and have some purpose. “We have twice weekly zoom meetings where we all meet up and each of them have taken on a new roles/tasks which can be completed from home. Most of us have young kids so it certainly hasn’t been easy.”
Asha says their website — www.littleandfox.co.nz— has been their saving grace. “We have all been contributing to making the website more attractive, adding products, descriptions and making it easier to navigate for our customers. Over the last week web sales have increased hugely which is really promising for the future. I hope it may become the new norm, and platform for our product sales.”
And it’s not just curtains keeping Little and Fox customers warm — there’s also the slippers. “We love our slippers and the whole concept. Two Hawke’s Bay businesses came together “on a unique and creative level” last year with the same values of environmental sustainability and quality of the product, Asha says. “Gavin from Classic Sheepskins approached me with the idea of collaborating. It took off. We use our high-end designer offcuts to make incredibly stylish, and warm, slippers. Every pair is completely unique and you get to have a little Designer’s Guild, House of Hackney, Zoffany or William Morris in your life.” Asha says it’s hard to keep up with demand. “As soon as we make them, they sell out. It’s brilliant. I have a new collection ready to go as soon as we get out of Lockdown 4.”
All Little and Fox our products are available online, including new New Zealand-made furniture suppliers Profile and Monteaux, scrunchies, eye masks and cushions, which are all made in the Ahuriri warehouse.
“We offer free shipping on any products purchased via the website during lockdown level 4. This has really helped sell some of our larger products. We can ship all over the country.”
Asha sees the future of the business becoming more web-based, with people having more confidence to order online. “Even after this crisis is over, we get the feeling that people’s shopping habits will have changed and they will be used to shopping online. We have created online ‘How to's' — how to measure your own curtains and blinds, get online quotes for window treatments, cushions squabs and upholstery.” There will be a free pick up and delivery service for all products. Customers can order made goods, book in upholstery jobs and they will be delivered in a contactless, safe way.
“It’s not only about keeping the staff safe but also ensuring our customers feel safe to work with us.” She says their lampshade classes have always been popular so plans are underway to sell "make your own" kits and have virtual classes via zoom. “It’s quite exciting because it means you don’t need to be in Hawke’s Bay to join and we can increase our offering of classes.”
Asha says since lockdown level 4 their manufacturing business, curtain making, upholstery and soft furnishing has had to stop completely.
“It's been quite stressful and emotional having to make changes to our business, both for revenue and to ensure we keep our staff and customers safe. I really don’t think we will see the true impact — economically or mentally — of this pandemic for months to come. The upside, when I look at the situation day by day, I am spending so much more time with my beautiful family and that’s been incredibly rewarding — we are stronger for it.”
Although Asha describes herself as a worrier, she says because the situation is so big and out of her hands, she has managed to maintain a level of calm.
“It’s bigger than me and the outcome is out of my hands. The lockdown for all of us has allowed the time and space to reflect and reasess what’s truly important. I’ve definitely got some new ideas and goals of where I would like to see Little and Fox head in the future — connection with community and family being a key aspect. Watch this space.”