Cork interior company almost doubles revenue despite forced closure of shop during pandemic

Cork interior company almost doubles revenue despite forced closure of shop during pandemic

Stephen Jiang in his Fervor+Hue shop in Cork city. The Cork interiors company has almost doubled its revenue this year despite the Covid pandemic forcing the closure of its shop for about a third of the year.

A Cork interiors company has almost doubled its revenue this year despite the Covid-19 pandemic forcing the closure of its shop for about a third of the year.

Stephen Jiang and his wife Sinead O'Connor set up Fervor+Hue in Cornmarket Centre off Patrick Street in the city centre almost five years ago.

Born in China, Mr Jiang moved to Cork city when he was 14 years of age with no English.

Despite becoming aware of Covid-19 before many people in Ireland due to his Chinese roots, Mr Jiang and his wife never anticipated they would end up being forced to close their doors in March.

"I have a little bit of an advantage because my family still live in China. I would have heard about Covid months before it was on the news here," he said.

"I was telling friends my parents had been locked in, China was in shutdown. We were saying 'imagine that'. A month later we were in lockdown.

"It was a dire moment. It was a shock to the system. We said: 'what do we do?'. It was extremely hard. I suppose the fear of the unknown was the problem for us."

Mr Jiang said he had stockpiled ahead of Brexit, which turned out to be an advantage to them in lockdown when China had shut down its supply chain. It meant they still had stock during the lockdown.

Within a few days of closing their store, the couple realised they needed to turn their focus to their online platform.

"Being an accountant I started cutting where I could and started getting money in," he said.

"When it came to the digital marketing spend, I said: 'Do I pause this or leave it alone?' For some reason at the back of my head I said leave it alone and see.

That's probably the best investment so far this year. Obviously everyone else started to cut their marketing spend but we were getting a quadruple return on our investment online.

He added: "The minute the shop shut, within a couple of days our online took off.

"Before Covid, online sales accounted for 10% and then pretty much overnight it became 40%. It's a massive jump."

Not only did its online sales keep Fervor+Hue afloat, they did not have to lay off any staff.

They have hired another person, bringing their workforce to seven people.

They are also planning on opening a second shop in Dublin in March next year.

"We noticed half of our orders were coming from Dublin and we've no presence in Dublin," he said.

"The capital accounts for a large percentage of our orders so now we're actively looking at trying to get another unit."

They hope they will be in a position to locate and open a new store by summer.

Mr Jiang said: "There's no way we would have thought this year would have turned out to be like this.

"If someone said to me you'll be growing this year instead of receding, I'd have said not a chance but this year has been unbelievable for us.

"We almost doubled our revenue this year in a pandemic. We're absolutely over the moon. Not that we're taking advantage of the situation, but I suppose we were making lemonade out of lemons."

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