When the pandemic forced Pizza Pilgrims to close its 13 stores in London and Oxford in March, the business went from zero to 30,000 pizzas every week. Of the 276 employees, 270 had to be laid off.
As they opened a shop in April to handle the delivery, founder Thom Elliot still needed to find another way to make up for lost revenue. “I tried to think of something that could serve our customers, who kept calling us, and who also kept us relevant in these times,” he says in an interview.
Mr Elliot and his team have decided to create pizza kits with all the raw ingredients you need to prepare your pizza at home, but to do so he needs to update his website. That’s where Shopify entered.
The Canadian company offers technology to anyone to set up an online store and sell their products, with additional features such as inventory tracking and software to help understand sales trends.
When Mr. Elliot launched the new website along with the pizza kits and posted on the new product on the company’s Instagram account, he sold the 50 kits in 25 seconds. Since the beginning of April, the new Pizza in the Post store has sold over 25,000 kits.
“We have noticed that many families like these kits so that everyone can make pizza together during the blockade,” he says.
The easing of blocking restrictions allowed the company to reopen 10 of its 13 stores.
Blockades were a boon for Shopify, as companies hurried to sell products online. According to internal data, new stores created on the Shopify platform grew 62% between March 13 and April 24 this year, compared to the previous six weeks.
It became Canada’s most valuable public company, with profits of $ 880 million (£ 704 million) last year.
“The interesting thing about this company is that not many people know about it, but it’s been around since 2004,” says Dan Wang, associate professor of management at Columbia University in New York.
“They saw a tendency to sell directly to small businesses before most, at a time when Amazon and other big players were at the center of the scene.”
Emphasize the big moves Shopify has recently made to further strengthen its position in online commerce. In particular, an agreement with the US giant Walmart, under which some small Shopify vendors will appear on the Walmart online market.
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The goal is to bring 1,200 Shopify merchants to the market this year.
“If you simply take our US-based stores and aggregate them and pretend for a moment that these stores are a single reseller, we are the largest online reseller after Amazon,” says Harley Finkelstein, Shopify chief operating officer.
“Technology has leveled the playing field, so it is not necessary to have a lot of money to build a brand that is the envy of the giant corporate hegemones and the interesting part is that consumers vote with their wallets and prefer to buy from local merchants. .
“The pandemic acted as an accelerator in which people began to prefer buying a cup or pen or anything else directly from the person who made it.”
That’s not to say though that people have turned their backs on Amazon, which has also seen a boom in sales this year – revenue rose 26% to $ 75.4 billion in the first quarter (£ 59.4 billion) .
Shopify is facing Amazon by launching its own warehouse and delivery network that allows store owners to quickly deliver their products to customers.
To support this move, Shopify last year purchased 6 River Systems, a company that provides software and robotics for storage and delivery systems.
Depot diving is not a surprise to some analysts.
“This move is definitely a direct possibility to compete with Amazon,” says Pinar Ozcan, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of Oxford.
“Amazon’s competitive advantages are its vast portfolio of suppliers, with which Shopify can already compete, and its seamless distribution network. Shopify has failed in this second aspect. By focusing on distribution, their business model is is approaching that of Amazon, which is known to work well. “
But he adds that there will always be a difference between the two companies. Shopify will likely never compete in unbranded everyday products, particularly because Amazon has its own product ranges such as batteries, bulbs and pots and pans.
What matters most to retailers like Ian Warren, Philip Warren Butchers’ CEO in Cornwall, is that his business has a new store for his products.
As a meat supplier to over 150 restaurants in the UK, Warren’s company had a hit when it started the blockade, inspiring it to launch a Shopify store dedicated to selling its products directly to consumers.
He estimates that his store has attracted around 1,000 new customers who didn’t visit his physical sites.
“I never thought of building this type of website before,” he says, “but we needed something personalized that could satisfy a different type of demography than our usual meat buyers from restaurants.”