Q&A with Robert Shaw

How is Beco dealing with the current Covid-19 pandemic?

Undoubtedly it has been a challenging time but like everyone else, we were shocked and challenged by the pandemic, before and during lockdown. We have found ways to deal with it, obviously the safety of our employees were our main concern and even before the lockdown, we asked most of our employees to work remotely.

But as a supplier of essential pet products we were fortunate that we were able to continue to trade and we are grateful to all our retailers up and down the country that have continued to trade and work with us on that.

During these uncertain times, we were still able to export around the world and still supply our retail partners all around the country and at this time we have been doing things differently.

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We have been working from home, we have split the team in the distribution centres and have supplied them with lots more protective equipment with more precautions having been taken.

How is the company engaging with its  team right not during the pandemic?

We have been using Zoom quite a lot to communicate with our employees, with lots of understanding that people are working from home under different circumstances we are all in, but we have had fun as well.

Instead of a monthly town hall meeting we normally have we do that weekly via zoom and catch up with every team member wherever they are and we have done online events such as fun quiz nights with the whole team where we engaged in drinks. One week we had a Pictionary, which had got quite competitive actually.

The team seems to enjoy the quizzes with more people getting involved and prizes for the winners. In terms of ways we learnt, we are unable to go for drinks after work so we have adapted and tried to engage in different ways.

How has the pandemic affected Beco and what plans have been put in place for that?

There has been a focus on the environment and how we are treating the world due to the pandemic.

More people are thinking about the environment and how to make better decisions for it, I think many people want to retain some of the things that they have come across in lockdown, such as, more wildlife being affected, cleaner air, being more resourceful with what we eat, throwing away less food, shopping locally and just generally thinking about sustainability and that will be beneficial to a brand like Beco.

What trends do you see to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic?

People are definitely going to be more into sustainability and being more interested in the environment. I feel like that is exactly what we want as a brand as we are concerned with the environment and we try to promote that in the products that we sell.

From our sales figures we have calculated that we have used up to 1.7 million plastic bottles to stuff our toys and we think people will care about these things more as we move out of the pandemic.

People are engaging more with flexible working, working from home, using their car less and hopefully that will promote a cleaner environment.

Where is the pet industry in a year’s time?

I think people are still willing to make similar choices for their pets as they are for themselves, so there is a sense of humanisation welcoming pets as parts of our families, so the choices you make for yourself, whether it is health eating, getting more exercise or becoming more sustainable, you would want to impart the decisions you make for yourself on to your pets.

The pet industry today is worth £1.7bn per year but it is growing quite rapidly, so it is a good place to be as a pet brand, particularly as one that has sustainability as its main focus.

I reckon the pet industry could be worth around to £2.1bn by 2023.

What are Beco’s goals for the rest of the year?

We want to continue growing as a brand, we are continuing to roll out our rebrand and new packaging in all our products. We are growing our food business tremendously as people are choosing to feed their dogs better food, so it is an exciting place to be right now.

How did your background at Jack Wills help you in this position at Beco?

I had tremendous fun growing Jack Wills as one of its founders. I can really empathize with the business that is passionate about its customers, creating great products. We did that at Jack Wills and Beco is doing it with great ability today.

There are a lot of growing pains in a small business that is growing fast, I am definitely empathetic to the changes that are going on at Beco because I have been through that on an entrepreneurial journey with a business before.

How are you finding the move from fashion retail to pet?

George Bramble, our founder, has always had a clear vision of what we want to achieve at Beco within the pet industry, so it’s been quite easy to join the team and support this. If you are passionate about a brand and the customer base, then it is really about the company being well-run and projecting a brand that means something to people and Beco does that every day.

We did that at Jack Wills, we had innovative marketing techniques and methods and Beco does too, so, there are more similarities than differences, even though both industries are different.

There is nothing more special to anyone than their dog, they are a part of the family and they care about what their dog and what they get involved in, which results in caring about which products to buy for them.

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