How We Expanded Our Product Line And Increased Sales By 89%

Published: February 18th, 2022
Carl Benson
Suffolk Latch Com...
from Clare, England, United Kingdom
started January 2007
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

My name is Carl Benson and I am the Managing Director of Suffolk Latch Company, a webstore offering high-quality architectural ironmongery and hand-forged home hardware. We are known for our traditional Suffolk Latches, although in recent years our doorknobs have become our best selling items. We are committed to providing high-quality products at sensible prices.

Starting as a small manufacturer of mirrors and coat racks, a problem with a supplier of coat hooks led to the idea of a webstore selling high-quality hardware. Suffolk Latch Company was born! We are known for our friendly customer service and for providing expert advice. Our collections have expanded over the years, and we now offer an extensive range of door, window, and cabinet furniture.

Since my previous update with Starter Story, we have experienced an incredible surge in sales, upwards of 50%. As a result of this rapid growth, we have given the website another revamp, both visually and with new back-end functionality.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?

Growth in the business over the past two years has been incredible. In 2020 we had an 89% increase in overall sales. Our average order value increased, as well as online store sessions, which have converted 24% higher than previous years.

Working with our web development team - a third party company that we hire on a specific project basis - we have targeted our growth in a multi-pronged way:

  • Targeted pay per click & google shopping campaigns
  • Developing SEO & organic traffic
  • Social Media
  • Developing web store functionality to help conversions
  • Increasing product ranges
  • New content, articles & features to engage existing and new customers

To support our growth, we hired 2 new members of staff - a full-time digital marketer and a videographer/photographer. Working with our in-house content writer, we can now produce real top-quality content on our website and across social media platforms. Our goal is to become a recognized brand for quality home hardware, and for our website to be the go-to place for tips and ideas for home renovations.

With that goal in mind, we have developed a new feature blog article called House Tours - a behind-the-scenes look at customers’ home renovation projects. Launched earlier this year, the House Tours editions have been a big success. When our videographer joined the team, House Tours was developed further, adding an exclusive video for featured local properties. This was a way for us to give something back to our local customers, offering a bespoke, professionally filmed video of their home. The results have been very positive, not only for this new feature but also resulting in increased engagement for other blog articles too. See an example of one of our House Tours monthly editions HERE.

The level of growth we have experienced has been due to a combination of factors, both planned and unplanned. When the Covid crisis hit, we didn’t know what the impact on sales would be. But we experienced an immediate uptick in sales, so much so that we started to worry about having enough stock! It was something we could never have planned for and we have been very fortunate.

With the increase in sales and the new developments on our website, I decided to increase our product lines. Previously, we slowly added new products, carefully juggling the balance between increased stock and the size restrictions of our warehouse. But now, two key factors allowed me to expand our product range quickly:

  1. The new collection-level functionality on the website
  2. New dropshipping process

1) Our website has been developed to allow us to have a hierarchical structure of product collections - i.e. collections within collections - which allows us to list the same product in multiple places. This functionality also allows us to use multiple keywords for the same products, which is very helpful for SEO purposes.

We can break down collections into styles and colors, which helps a customer to navigate in a granular way to find the product they want.





2) When planning for the increased product listings, I had to think about the logistical ramifications. I considered moving to a bigger site, to accommodate the increased stock, but with the uncertainty of recession following the Covid crisis, as well as issues surrounding Brexit, I was hesitant to make that move. Instead, I spoke to some of our suppliers and negotiated a drop-selling arrangement. For certain product ranges, the stock is only sent once a customer places an order. Our developers then created a bespoke app, to integrate with our supplier’s stock systems, which in turn keeps our website up-to-date with the stock levels. This way, we do not need to buy in stock that will use up valuable warehouse space. The only downside is that we cannot offer next-day delivery on those products, although we have not had any problems with customers regarding this. It is working very well and will allow us to double our product range.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

When making decisions about stock, there is always a question about whether a particular range of products will be popular or not. I made a gamble on a new range of premium ironmongery in 2019, and it, unfortunately, didn’t work out. The sales were disappointing and we had problems with consistency of finish. It is always a learning process though, and despite the sunk costs of that product line, we moved on and focussed on products that were doing well.

The best decision I made in the past two years was in the hiring of new team members. It was another gamble, making a commitment to training and supporting two new full-time members of staff, but it has been a crucial factor in our recent growth.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

To continue to increase our product line, create top quality content and become a trusted go-to brand. This will probably include further expansion of the team in due course.

It is impossible to grow a company without the right people and a broad range of skills.

Have you read any good books in the last year?

I do a lot of walking in my spare time. We are surrounded by beautiful Suffolk country walks and I also take weekend trips along coastal walks. It allows me to listen to things as I walk and I often dip in and out of the “How I Built This With Guy Raz” podcast. I listen to a wide range of snippets, with no one thing, in particular, bringing inspiration.

I’m lucky to work with my amazing wife, Sharon, who is the company CEO. She comes from an accounting background and brings a wealth of skills that complement my approach to the business.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

I think the only advice you need is to have the right team of people around you. It is impossible to grow a company without the right people and a broad range of skills. I have witnessed so many start-ups failing because they did not have the right personnel in place. Start with a small team, each with its area of expertise. For a webstore these are the key areas:

  • Web development
  • Financial/Accounting
  • Customer Service
  • Content Writing
  • Digital Media Marketing
  • Photographs/Video
  • Packing & Dispatch
  • Warehouse Management



Where can we go to learn more?