Covid-19: How Lush is adapting its operations during the pandemic

British-based cosmetics company Lush has stores all over the world, including 258 in North America. But the global pandemic has meant it’s had to make some tough decisions, including laying off staff in Canada while it operates as a “much smaller business".

Retail and manufacturing managers are being retained, while its senior leadership team have taken a 25% salary cut and “remain focused on getting our staff, communities and business through this crisis with a fighting chance,” the North American arm of the business said in a statement at the end of March

In order to to do that, Lush is keeping in contact with its staff via communication platform Retail Zipline, which store managers can access on their computers or via an app.”

Carmen Ip, communications and operations manager for North America, tells Essential Retail the business started using Zipline two years ago to streamline communications. “At the moment with things happening so quickly we are finding ourselves evolving our messages daily, even sometimes hourly. Rather than send emails every couple of hours we can just update the message within our Covid folders.”

The platform allows Lush to send out tasks, which appear as an individual dashboard for each store manager. “The other really useful feature is a survey function, so we’re able to gather information really quickly from shops. Such as: what’s your mall doing right now in response to restrictions lifting? Shops can just plug in their answers and we can pull the data and it’s all in one spreadsheet.”

Online growth

Lush is also involving managers in new projects, particularly as its digital business has grown during the closures. For example, some are supporting its customer care team to respond to online enquiries. As well as bringing in staff to help support its fulfilment centres - something the senior leadership team has also been helping with. “It’s been all hands on deck,” she says. “We are all doing what we can to help the business in different ways.”

The company has also been using the platform for training. “We are also hosting a lot of manager webinars to be able to prepare for when we reopen. So it’s been a really great time to engage staff in a different way… people are stepping up and it’s just been really inspiring.”

The company recently launched a virtual consultation service, which customers can book online and then speak to a number of its managers to discuss products. “It’s basically a very similar interaction that they would get in-store. But without the demos and touch. We moved pretty fast when we saw the request from a lot of customers on Facebook and Instagram, so that came together a couple of weeks ago.”

One challenge is that everything is taking much longer, as the company is ensuring staff safety when fulfilling orders. “So our priority has been communication,” she says. “We just posted a video last week on social media with just a couple of staff members at the fulfil centre letting customers know hey we are doing our best, please be patient.”

Over the last couple of years Lush has been investing more heavily in its digital business, including its click and collect service, which Ip believes will put the company in a good position when stores do re-open but people are reluctant to spend as much time in them. 

Despite the extremely challenging circumstances, Ip says the response from everyone has been positive. “We didn’t really know what to expect when North America just closed everything. But the response has been incredible from our customers.”