Owners of discount online retailer remain in the real world where ‘every penny counts’
A relatively unknown online discount retailer catapulted into the limelight after a fly-on-the-wall documentary showcased the unique business model on prime time TV recently followed by an appearance on Loose Women has today announced record breaking sales despite ‘overwhelming’ number of website visits and related IT issues.
With tens of thousands of customers trying to access the Approved Food website within minutes of founder Dan’s appearance on Bargain Fever Britain, the company’s website infrastructure initially struggled to deal with the volume of visits.
But the lure of savings of up to 70% on the cost of each basket for products nearing or just beyond their best before date proved so popular that the customers kept coming back, and the company recorded sales that within 24hrs had exceeded its entire first month of trading.
“We have spent the last six years building up the business from just an acorn of an idea,” said Dan. “All the way along we have had to balance many, many factors, including not becoming too big too fast and generating more orders than we can handle whilst balancing the cash – all the factors every start up business is faced with.
When we started there was no off the shelf software system that would do what we wanted so we set about writing our own and now, six years later, we have a very complex and sophisticated solution that covers all aspects of the business.”
Andy Needham, Dan’s business Partner takes up the story: “12 months ago we realised that we either needed to stick at the size we were, or take some additional risks and push forward. We opted to grow, and in September moved to a 60,000 sq ft warehouse, triple the size of our previous premises.
“The massive new site solved a lot of the issues stopping us being able to develop further but introduced a lot of unknown factors; the first being that we couldn’t actually afford it – rent, rates, insurance, fit out, moving costs etc etc. Something we needed to address.
“Having been pursued by the production team at Dragons Den for a couple of months we decided that might be a route to raise further finance, and we didn’t think that the publicity would do any harm, so we applied.”
An experience ‘best forgotten’, according to Andy, with the Dragon’s turning down the duo’s request for investment, they put their efforts in to finding other funders.
“The irony is that the other investors proved considerably more fruitful,” Andy explains. “We managed to raise a higher amount of funding at a lot less cost which was the catalyst for the move and at that point the decision was taken to let the fly on the wall team from Bargain Fever Britain travel the journey with us.
“As Dan and I discussed together at the time, going bust on National Television might not be the greatest feeling but we had conviction in our business and a desire to actually create something we could both be proud of!”
The resulting publicity lifted the company’s sales to record levels and, despite the inevitable glitches when systems and processes were exposed to far higher levels than ever before, the business is continuing to cope well – even recruiting more staff.
“We always knew we were developing a very scalable business, and over the last couple of weeks that has really become apparent,” said Dan.
“That said, despite reports in the media that we’re making millions Andy and I remain very much in the real world where every penny counts – just like our customers.
“We are not earning fortunes; we are typical Yorkshiremen – tight and frugal – but we do have an overwhelming desire to create something we can look back upon and say, we did that!
“We have no idea where things will end up but we have some things we would like to tackle in the short term around the subject of Best Before Dates and resulting food waste and other areas where we can make a difference.”
Watch out for the second episode of “Bargain Fever Britain” on ITV1 at 8pm on Tuesday 24th March where Dan tries to teach a couple of youngsters to pitch products like he did when he was on the Markets!
You can read a full interview with Dan in the MAR/APR Chase, out later this week!