Air business

The couple set up their Stephensons Online eBay account at the beginning of 2011 after wanting a meaningful way to pass on their grandmother’s things. During this process, Barry and Katy realised the huge revenue potential of online selling. After all their grandmother’s items had sold, the couple began re-selling items from car boot sales and, later, wholesalers on eBay. Just six months after setting out, Stephensons Online LTD became a sole trader. After launching on Amazon UK, the company then set up SolRetail. As a third party e-commerce platform management company, SolRetail works directly with health and beauty brands; looking after everything from their marketing to order fulfilment, stock management to customer service.

Persistence! We started off as eBay sellers, selling my grandmother’s old belongings. After we’d sold her things, we started selling our own unwanted items on eBay. We sold anything that people would normally put into a skip and get rid of! We then moved into re-selling items we bought from car boot sales and eventually went on to sell for brands. We’ve never taken out a loan; we’ve simply regurgitated the money we’ve earned at each step of the process back into the business to purchase new stock and drive more sales. In the first month, we turned over £1,000. We doubled this in our second month and, after repeating the process of selling and re-investing, were turning over £150,000 by 2012 and £750,000 by 2013. Our current turnover is £3.5million with the next goal now £10million.

Secondly, we also provide the full platform management for brands we have created ourselves or become investors in. For example, we fully manage the online platform sales of the Natural Birthing Company, which we have been a shareholder of since 2016, and which is also sold in 400 Boots stores across the UK. Dear Barber is another brand we are investors in, sold in 35 countries worldwide and, again, fully managed by ourselves. We have our own brands too. We launched our new men’s brand, Raw Supremo, and we also have some female brands coming out next year. We’re really driving the brand side of our business as well as managing the brands of others.

First of all, we are not just a retailer or a wholesaler but a business partner to all the brands we work with. We act as an extension of their team; providing them with business support and resources to drive their sales and brand awareness forward. Every brand we work with is different so we provide each one with unique direction and advice. Regardless of the differences between our B2B customers though, the key expectations of the end consumers remain constant. Their priority is quality and timed delivery; getting everything that they want delivered, to their door, exactly when they expect this.

Well I’ll start by saying that one of the greatest things is Air Business’ personal touch. We have used different suppliers in the past and my experience was often feeling that we were ‘just a number ’. But this isn’t the case with Air Business. You do all you can within your parameters to assist us in getting the best price and the best delivery to fit each brand we sell, in order to meet needs of the end-customers.

Through Air Business, we’ve been able to choose specific delivery options for each of the brands we manage. When we have a delivery that we need to get to a particularly challenging corner of the world or if a certain brand requires a service for their consumers that we don’t offer already then we can ring our Account Managers, Harry and Tim, at Air Business and they’ll come in, sit down and discuss things through with us to come up with the best solutions.

Most definitely – especially in the US and UK where consumers seem to want things within an hour! But consumers in different parts of the world have different expectations. So, again, it’s about matching the delivery service to the requirements of each specific group of consumers to ensure that they are getting what they expect. Air Business is therefore the ideal distribution partner for us, offering multiple options from economy solutions right up to the fully tracked service.

Yes, certainly. Firstly, the number of return orders we receive has reduced. Secondly, since working with Air Business, we have seen our customer interactions concerning issues like non-deliveries and late deliveries decrease with every month that goes by. We sit down and scrutinise these figures with the Air Business team on a three-monthly basis and then make plans to create even further future improvements so that we are constantly moving forward.

Having raced with fellow amateur driver Mike Robinson for four years, Graham explains the challenges this new pairing is set to bring. “Michael is 5ft 7 and I’m 6ft 2. At 6ft, my old teammate Mike was almost the same height as me so we just sat in the same position in the car. However, with Michael being much shorter, we may have to make some interesting compromises to get comfortable! I’ve never shared a car with anyone other than Mike so it will be a really new experience for me racing with somebody different who has been professionally appointed by McLaren and who is in his second season of professional motor racing. As a non-professional, I spend most of the off-season out of the car and Mike Robinson was the exactly the same. But I’ll now be racing alongside somebody who basically lives in the car – that will be interesting!”

Although this year’s season does not kick off until late April, Graham has already ramped up his training regime. “I am trying to do some cardio in the gym every day now. As a middle-aged driver, weight is the enemy. If you’re something like 15-20kg heavier than your teammate then you will, by definition, lose around 3 or 4 sevenths of a second per lap. Michael is probably about 30kg lighter than me which is a huge difference so I will have to be very disciplined in keeping the weight off!”

The 10 th year of the partnership will see Air Business as key Strategic Partner of the PPA Festival and PPA Awards, which this year undergo exciting changes to their content and format, affirming its support and dedication to the growth of this sector. Air Business will once again be supporting the New Talent Awards in March and the Independent Publisher Awards in November.

“I am delighted to be entering into our 10 th year with Adam Sherman and his team at Air Business, their role as Strategic Partner is extremely valued. Over the past nine years of our partnership, they have demonstrated great passion for the industry and are always proactively investing in and supporting the growth of the publishing sector. As publishers seek to grow their presence in new sectors, Air Business has ensured they meet their evolving needs.”

“A lot has changed in publishing since we first became Strategic Partner in 2010 and we are excited to be supporting publishers as they move into new markets and of course we are thrilled to be continuing our strong partnership with Barry and his team at the PPA. Over the past year the Group has created some very positive changes including moving our Head Office and main distribution centre to Hatfield and continuing to invest in and develop our subscriptions service model and systems. What has not changed is our passion and loyalty for the publishing industry, which stays at the heart of everything we do at Air Business.”

As part of this brand new role for the company, Lenka will be responsible for directing Air Business’ Client Relationship Group and Data Bureau departments as well as all the internal processes and customer touchpoints within the business. Lenka will thoroughly review and oversee the implementation of improvements and changes to Air Business’ service chain to ensure that its customers receive the best experience possible. Lenka will report directly into the Group’s Managing Director, Adam Sherman, with close support from Philip Ions, the Group Finance Director.

Through managing the move of Air Business’ Head Office and main distribution centre earlier this year, Lenka acquired an extensive knowledge of the company’s processes and customer touchpoints, designing its new building around these. Having worked at Air Business for a total of 10 years, Lenka also has first-hand experience of working in the company’s Customer Relationship Group department; serving and liaising with its customers on a daily basis at the beginning of her career. From her previous experience of setting up the company’s Marketing department and serving as its Head of Marketing and Strategic Planning, Lenka’s customer-centric focus also made her the ideal candidate for the role.

To support Lenka, Kevin Lamb has been appointed to the other new role of Head of Client Relations and Insights where he will be responsible for heading up Air Business’ Client Relationship Group. Kevin joined the company in 2016, with over 25 years’ worth of experience working in a variety of production, subscription and postal distribution roles at TI Media. As a regular member of various PPA industry groups over the years, Kevin has an extensive knowledge of the UK publishing market.

“Throughout her career at Air Business, Lenka has consistently demonstrated her strong ability to deliver results. Lenka has played an instrumental part in the company’s brand and strategic direction to date. I believe she will bring great experience and a customer-centric insight to this new role, which is intrinsically about keeping the customer at the forefront of everything we do.” read more

Whilst most parcel carriers offer similar delivery services, they all have their own unique selling points. At this critical point of the year it’s best not to keep all your eggs in one basket by only using a single carrier partner. By working with multiple carriers your customers will have access to the best delivery options available. Offering your customers multi-carrier delivery options will also help reduce basket abandonment due to price or timing concerns.

Consider upgrading untracked shipments to tracked services – this may be a big help to your customer service team over this busy period as consumers can check the progress of their parcels without having to get in touch. Over the peak season this will, in general, improve customer feedback, promote brand loyalty and improve online rankings all of which will help to drive traffic back to your site during and after peak.

Using the cheapest available packaging is often a false economy. To ensure your goods arrive in perfect condition, use packaging that reflects the size and nature of the items being sent with suitable void fill. The cost of orders arriving damaged, the subsequent returns and resending process, teamed with poor customer service implications is likely to be considerably more costly than investment in better packaging.

A good way to encourage post-peak season sales may be to include incentives with the outbound orders during the winter peak. Both email and paper-based campaigns can help to increase sales in quieter months. Another option could be to upgrade delivery services for returning, loyal, customers free of charge and make them aware of this value-added extra.

Don’t struggle through the winter peak season ‘out in the cold’, at Air Business we have the experience and technology to integrate with your orders and ensure your items are delivered securely in a timely manner. As soon as we know all of the international ‘last posting dates’ before Christmas we’ll be posting them on our Service Update page and emailing our contacts. To sign up for our weekly Service Alert emails please click the ‘subscribe’ button in the top right hand corner of the Service Update page. You can read more about our E-commerce services here.

Currently, the vast majority of publishers still use polythene to wrap their subscription copies. However, more and more subscribers are now exerting pressure on publishers to change this practice. For many publishing houses, the instinct reaction to this is to switch wrapping material to a biodegradable alternative. But is this the right response?

Gary: I don’t anticipate taxation being imminent but it certainly can’t be discounted in the longer term. I don’t think that the issue is solely one of regulation or legislation though as though as moral imperative for media companies to improve the sustainability of the products they produce. I think that consumers will continue to look for products that have low environmental impact.

Jane: There is a lot of scientific debate as to whether biodegradable plastic is truly biodegradable. There is still a lot of research going on around this, but I don’t think it has been proven that biodegradable is necessarily a better solution at the moment, although it is interesting to see that some publications are starting to use this kind of wrap.

Kevin: I agree with Gary. A key issue is that consumers have limited ways of recycling polythene. It cannot be placed in kerbside recycling and many supermarkets have removed their polythene recycling bins. Biodegradable material could potentially have a worse effect on the environment as there is growing evidence that degrading plastic is being consumed by wildlife. I had hoped that using compostable polythene might be the way forward but once again, if this is placed in kerbside garden waste, there is confusion as to whether this will be removed the local authorities and end up in landfill. read more