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All-terrain buggies manufactured by a family business in the New Forest have been hailed a lockdown lifesaver by families of children with disabilities.
Delichon has responded to a rise in demand for its pioneering Delta Buggy after adapting operations at its base in Fordingbridge, Hampshire, to follow social distancing rules.
Staff have been buoyed by messages of thanks from customers in the UK and overseas. One parent commented on Facebook: “Our buggy has been a lifesaver during lockdown. It’s allowed us to create a new normality with our son during these uncertain times – a new routine in which a walk in the Delichon Delta is crucial.”
Strong sales of the Delta Buggy have helped to offset the impact of Delichon having to close its showroom and suspend fitting clinics for the firm’s Foam-Karve seating, which is custom-made for people with disabilities. UK sales were up year-on-year by 86% in March and 100% in May. Export sales were initially badly affected by the pandemic but have since picked up, growing by 30% in both May and June.
Delichon was founded in 1996 by Martin and P-J Davy and now employs around 15 people. Having invested £1.75 million in moving to new purpose-built headquarters just over two years ago, like many business owners the couple feared the worst when lockdown started.
One of the great strengths of family businesses is that they can be very agile in responding to challenges and opportunities
Managing director Martin said: “A significant part of our business is Foam-Karve seating, which relies on us visiting customers or them coming to our showroom for a custom-fitting clinic. That obviously wasn’t going to be possible during the Covid-19 pandemic, so when this work stopped overnight we were worried about the impact this would have.
“However, we’re fortunate that we’ve been able to continue operating and that we have the space to accommodate social distancing in our workshop. Our team have been working incredibly hard to maintain production of our Delta Buggy by offering a contactless assessment service, working from photographs and measurements to tailor products to our customers’ requirements.
“By being creative with how we use our staff and resources, and adapting to the rapidly changing landscape around us, we have managed to maintain turnover at 2019 levels, which is not something I would have predicted when lockdown started.”
It’s been very useful to have that professional support to help us get through this difficult period
Martin added: “During lockdown we’ve seen a huge increase in demand for buggies which enable children and adults to enjoy the great outdoors instead of being stuck at home. We’ve been sent lots of lovely messages and photos of our buggies making a difference. It’s meant so much to our staff to know that the work they are doing is making a tangible difference to the families we work with, particularly during this difficult time.”
Throughout the pandemic, Martin has had regular conversations with business adviser Paul Giessler, a partner at the Salisbury office of PKF Francis Clark.
“We had to furlough a minority of our staff when lockdown started, and Paul advised us on that process,” said Martin. “It’s been very useful to have that professional support to help us get through this difficult period. Without that we would have felt very alone, because Covid-19 has been a rapidly evolving situation and it’s difficult to keep on top of the sheer volume of information coming out from government while running a business.”
Paul said: “One of the great strengths of family businesses is that they can be very agile in responding to challenges and opportunities, and Delichon is a great example of this.
“Martin and his team have shown remarkable resilience and flexibility during the pandemic. We were delighted to hear about the heart-warming feedback from customers, which is testament to the impact of Delichon’s high quality products on people’s lives.”
For more information and advice for businesses during the pandemic, visit our Coronavirus Updates hub.