Let there be Lumie - how one Cambridge-based SME successfully manages seasonal fluctuations

2/12/2015

Cambridge-based light therapy specialist Lumie and FedEx share their top tips for coping with seasonal fluctuations in business.

 

As December rolls round for another year, the countdown to Christmas is now in earnest and with it a challenging time for SMEs as they cope with seasonal demand. Lumie has to accommodate a particularly intense seasonal pattern in business, first heralded by the onset of autumn and then rapidly picking up pace as Christmas approaches. FedEx is Lumie's logistics partner, successfully flexing to meet the spike in business over the winter; here they share their top tops for achieving this. 

Lumie’s monthly consignments double during this Christmas period – an increase that accounts for 20% of Lumie’s total annual shipments, in comparison to the 2% seen throughout May to July. Similarly, its international shipments surge in October as well with an increase in demand seen across Northern Europe and Scandinavia as well as North America and Canada where daylight hours are lower during winter.

In preparation for the influx of orders, Lumie works diligently during its quieter months to address its staffing, scheduling and stock listings well in advance. FedEx also works closely with them to successfully manage expectations from customers across the globe and ensure service levels remain consistent throughout the year.

Businesses will always experience seasonal fluctuations, some as predominately as Lumie, some not. Either way, the tips below highlight how important forward planning and preparation are in successfully managing the seasonal rush, allowing your business to grow. Remember, profitability should be an all year round bonus for businesses, so during quieter periods on home soil why not explore international markets, and develop new opportunities overseas?

Let there be Lumie!

Sunshine is clinically proven to make us happier, but is something often in short supply during a British winter (or summer for that matter). A continual lack of natural light can cause serotonin and melatonin levels in the body to drop, triggering the symptoms of depression. Up to 24% of the UK population experience the winter blues and of those, around 7% have such bad symptoms, known collectively as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, that they struggle to function normally.

The lightbulb moment

Since 1991, Cambridge-based Lumie has been at the forefront of safely and effectively fighting off the winter blues and SAD with light therapy. "Our founder Steve Hayes identified a need for light therapy products in the UK,” says Jonathan Cridland, current CEO of Lumie. “He developed a light box to increase the body’s natural production of mood and energy boosting hormones, such as serotonin.” Lumie later went on to invent integrated dawn simulators, also known as wake-up lights.

Dawn simulation is a method of resetting the body clock to adapt to a new sleep/wake cycle by simulating the rising and setting sun. This can benefit people who struggle to wake in the morning, shift workers, travellers suffering from jet lag and SAD patients. The Lumie Bodyclock range features a simulated sunrise and sunset to help people wake-up and fall asleep in the best way possible.

Exporting "sunshine"

Based on rigorous research and innovative design, and classified as medical devices, the company's diverse product range has seen turnover grow by 50% in just four years. Lumie is Europe’s leading light therapy specialist, with customers throughout Europe, North America and Australia. “The interest we’ve had from Europe, especially further north where winters are long and dark, has been phenomenal,” says Cridland.

Many hands make light work

As a product used to treat medical conditions, customers are keen to receive their Lumie as soon as possible so they can begin to enjoy the benefits. This means on time delivery has always been important. Following such rapid growth and international expansion, the challenge is maintaining the highest levels of customer service – even when transporting to the other side of the world.

That's where FedEx comes in…

“We've worked with FedEx for ten years and they ensure our shipments arrive on time and in perfect condition", comments Eileen Somerville, Warehouse Manager at Lumie. "The couriers take the utmost care when delivering fragile items, making sure the bulbs are kept upright and secure in transit."

Lumie uses the FedEx order management system, available via an enhancement of the standard FedEx Ship Manager® Software, to process orders and streamline administrative functions, such as shipping label generation. “This certainly brings structure to our process management procedure and for any unusual orders, the FedEx IT support team is always on hand," explains Somerville.

Local FedEx UK depots also adapt to Lumie’s increase in daily collections during the autumn/winter period and the run up to Christmas. “FedEx recognised that we experience an influx in orders during certain seasons,” adds Somerville. “It factored this in to our shipment needs and adapted, effectively providing us with seasonal shipping slots”.

The future's bright

Research and innovation has always been central to the Lumie success story. With its new product Lumie Bodyclock Iris – that combines a wake-up light with aromatherapy for the first time – the company has big plans to continue this trend on an international stage.

"As we continue to grow and expand into new markets, we're going to need a logistics provider who can deliver to the same high standard of customer service," adds Cridland. "The global-yet-local expertise FedEx has is a big bonus in this area, and we expect FedEx to be a part of our growth for years to come."

How SMEs can successfully manage seasonal fluctuations

Regardless of size or industry, the steps business owners take to navigate seasonal peaks and troughs in their annual business cycle are likely to have a direct impact on overall success, productivity and growth. While all businesses experience fluctuations in trade and sales throughout the year, seasonal businesses in particular need to focus on seasonal planning to ensure smooth running operations, during both busier and quieter periods. 

From cash flow to continuous customer engagement, effective planning and preparation is critical in keeping seasonal businesses in healthy competition within their vertical, paving the way for a more diverse marketplace. At FedEx, much of our own experience in this area has been gained from managing our own ‘peak periods’ – allowing us to identify some essential practices for dealing with seasonal supply and demand. Our top tips include: 

 1.       Get on top of cash flow

Irrespective of fluxes in your business cycle, there will be staff and suppliers to pay throughout the entire calendar year. Having a forecast drawn up based on sales from previous years will help you to manage cash flow more efficiently, and could help you identify potential or growing streams of revenue. Introducing a complementary product line/service during quieter period can also help level out cash flow e.g. if you’re an outdoor landscaping business, offering property maintenance during winter months can help maintain a more regular flow of custom. Either way, it’s important to have provisions in place to cover and manage costs all year round.

 2.       Invest in seasonal staff

If you’re a business that relies heavily on the support of seasonal staff to manage increased demand during certain times in your business cycle, you’ll know how critical an effective recruitment and staffing plan is. Having seasonal staff to focus on small yet significant tasks, such as sales and customer services, will ensure your core team are able to continue developing business operations without service levels dipping during busier times.  

 3.       Maximise sales

During busier periods, it’s essential your business is fully equipped with the necessary resources to ensure every opportunity for a sale is picked up and processed efficiently – from the initial order right through to final delivery. If yours is a business with international customers, the ability to service these customers in a timely fashion, despite the distance, will strengthen your position in the global marketplace. Seek advice from your logistics provider on seasonal strategy and make them aware of your peak sales periods both in the UK and overseas, so they can flex to meet increased demand and offer extra support as needed.

 4.       Promote your business during off-peak

As opposed to just promoting your business in the build-up to your busy period, make sure you carry the momentum into your off-peak periods too. You can do this by offering discounts and holding out-of-season sales to help uphold higher revenue levels. Offering such promotions will also help maintain relations with customers as well.

 5.       Diversify your business

Being a seasonal business gives you time to properly put a strategic plan into action and focus on product development, to help level out any seasonal dips. To propel your business forward it’s important to expand your existing customer reach, and selling online and looking to enter international markets is a popular option. Targeting new customers both nationally and internationally could boost your turnover and grow your business as a whole. And when you consider 50% of British SMEs believe their trade will be both domestic and international in just five years time[1], exporting holds a lot of potential for SMEs.

By David Poole, Managing Director of Sales, UK South, FedEx Express and FedEx UK Ltd

About Lumie

Since 1991 Lumie has been researching and designing bright lights to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other conditions. Our first Bodyclock dawn simulator – an alarm that wakes you up with increasing levels of light – was the world’s first wake-up light and brought light therapy into the mainstream. We also designed and developed Lumie Clear, a unique hand held device that uses combined blue and red light therapy to treat acne.

Over the years Lumie has worked closely with the scientific community. All of our products – the broadest range in Europe – are based on published research and designed by us from our base in Cambridge. Lumie is in the EuRhythDia consortium investigating circadian rhythms and type 2 diabetes, and is working with Liverpool John Moores University sports science department. We continue to research new applications for light therapy.

Lumie products are medical devices, certified to the Medical Devices Directive (93/42EEC)and supplied to the NHS on an occasional basis. Distance and brightness levels (lux) are independently verified and Lumie is registered with the government's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

The benefits of light therapy reach far beyond SAD. Our lights help you to sleep well and get up in the morning, beat the afternoon slump, conquer jetlag and look after your skin. They also optimise sports performance and we are proud to provide lights to some of Great Britain’s elite athletes as well as acting as official suppliers to British Swimming.

Two of our wake-up lights, Active and Elite, provide white noise as an option. If you are trying to sleep in a noisy environment or during the day, white noise helps to muffle other sounds, like traffic or people talking.

In the UK our products are available through www.lumie.com as well as major retailers like John Lewis, Boots, amazon, Selfridges and wiggle.co.uk and we have an expanding network of distributors across Europe and in North America. For consumers buying through www.lumie.com we provide a home trial on all products and a dedicated customer careline.

 

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Contact

Ruth Jackson

PR Manager,

Lumie

pr@lumie.com

Tel: 01954 786115

Mob: 07914 812261

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To read more information, click here.

Lumie

Since 1991 Lumie has been researching and designing bright lights to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other conditions. Our first Bodyclock dawn simulator – an alarm that wakes you up with increasing levels of light – was the world’s first wake-up light and brought light therapy into the mainstream. We also designed and developed Lumie Clear, a unique hand held device that uses combined blue and red light therapy to treat acne.

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