Infant swimwear specialist Splash About has ended a year like no other with a gold award for its flagship product.
The Happy Nappy has taken its fourth consecutive Mother & Baby Awards title at the close of a year that started with a huge expansion, acquisition and onboarding of pick and pack operations.
Inbetween coronavirus has wreaked havoc for growth plans that thrived on the summer holiday season and early years pool lessons.
Bernadette Spofforth, managing director of the Stallingborough business, said: “This year has been tough, and our leisure and travel sectors have been among the hardest hit.
“Parents have put our products through their paces and judged them on value for money and effectiveness as well as the aesthetic design and making life easier. We couldn’t be more proud that our products really deliver in the key areas that are important to parents; knowing they trust our products and give them their seal of approval is a real testament to our brand and its values.”
Splash About had eyed up doubling staff as it absorbed Swimrite Supplies – with a range of products stocked by more than 1,000 leisure centres and holiday parks – and brought its own logistics home from a third party operator.
It had taken a 17,000 sq ft site in a major move from managed office space.
Pulling on available support through the pandemic it is emerging as watertight as the product that has taken it global, despite the new routes to market being closed for much of the year.
And with the Best Swimming Product once again in the bag, the team are looking forward to a return to the pool in the UK – with 150,000 babies a week having used their products at peak.
Reflecting on the past year, Bernadette said: “We’re a massively international brand and right at the beginning of March we could see what was going on. We had reduced orders from South Korea and Taiwan. We could see issues, and while supply was fine, there were some problems getting containers across.
“We had begun to understand, but at the time we were still thinking it would be a problem with stock and manufacturing. Then it came through, and we had all the stock, all the lines in the warehouse, at precisely the time we in the UK locked down. There was no problem with China, no problem with stock, just no customers.”
But the global reach, furloughing and other incentives, helped maintain a business that was taken on from the innovators nearly a decade ago.
“Countries where families were furloughed and where the weather was good, sales were great,” Bernadette said. “Australia, South Africa and parts of the US did well. Parents had never spent so much time at home, and where pools are common in gardens, sales were strong.
“Sales in the UK were appalling. Organised baby swimming classes were all stopped.
“Fortunately Splash About is a very strong company, we have a great relationship with the bank and all of the funding the government put in place fitted very well. Now as pools begin to open up we are back in the water, hopefully we can forget 2020 on move on again.”
She praised the flexibility of the second furlough as it helped the business operate as required and keep staff involved.
“It enabled us to bring people in when we needed to, to flex with the work we had,” she said.
“We have been able to keep everyone, we’ve made no redundancies, and it enabled us to keep them all in touch with the business, to check on everyone and make sure they were okay, and it was a very difficult time for people who were just sent home.”
The team is now busy working on Brexit readiness, with the potential of double duty on imports and exports to work through, with plans to push a campaign in 2021.
“Next year the big thing will be ‘taking paper out of the water’,” Bernadette said. “Babies and mothers aren’t going to get the vaccine early, and it will make holiday parks and public pools even more cautious. A big thing now is working with councils and pools to stop using disposable swim nappies. We see it as presenting the biggest risk area with the pathogens.”
There will be hopes to build on the silver in the Best Travel Product category for the Happy Nappy Sunsuit too.
Launched in July, it features a lightweight, soft and stretchy UPF50+ nylon lycra body and reliable, reusable swim nappy bottom, uniquely protecting babies and toddlers both in and out of the water.