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E124: Jeremy Grieve

How The Fish Society Are Navigating Constant Economic Turbulence To Stay Profitable

Jeremy Grieve

Podcast Overview

Fish are friends, not food. Wrong, in The Fish Society’s world, fresh fish is the UK’s best sort of food.

In this week’s eCommerce podcast, you will find out how a brand has sold £millions of fresh fish online. 

Who doesn’t like a good bit of Fish? Prawns… Langoustines.. a nice bit of Salmon, our bellies are already rumbling.

eCom@One Presents:

Jeremy Grieve

Jeremy Grieve is the Chief Executive Officer at The Fish Society, the UK’s leading internet fishmonger. They pride themselves on the quality and freshness of their products. After joining the team as the Marketing and Operations Manager in 2016, Jeremy has been instrumental in their growth.

In this podcast, Jeremy shares how he became the Chief Executive Officer of The Fish Society and his advice to upcoming CEOs. He discloses how he navigated the turbulence of COVID, the challenges with exchange rates and the uncertainty surrounding the cost of the living crisis to remain profitable.

Find out how The Fish Society nailed their USPs to retain their customers, fresh fish may be mentioned a tuna times. Jeremy chats about profiting from Black Friday and sustainability, you don’t want to miss this one! 

Topics Covered:

1:50 – How did Jeremy become the CEO of The Fish Society 

4:08 – How did The Fish Society deal with Covid 

5:50 – The importance of retaining customers 

11:32 – How did Jeremy nail his USP

16:40 – The most significant challenges with selling Fish online

22:20 – The effect of exchange rates on Fish Society 

28:30 – How can we prepare for the cost of living crisis 

31:09 – How does the Fish Society stay sustainable 

35:55 – Profiting from Black Friday 

40:52 – Advice for upcoming CEOs

45:28 – Book Recommendation 

 

Richard:
Hi, and welcome to another episode of eCom@One. Today's guest, Jeremy Grieve, CEO of the Fish Society. How you doing, Jeremy?

Jeremy:
Very well, thank you, Richard. All good.

Richard:
Brilliant. Well, thank you for coming on. I know it's a very, very busy time of year, gearing up for the city season as we call it, but I think it'd be great to kick off if you introduce yourself. Tell you about your background, how you started at the Fish Society and how you became the CEO of the Fish Society.

Jeremy:
Cool. Well, the Fish Society firstly is an online fish monger. We sell fish to customers around the UK through the website. And my journey through the Fish Society, so I've been here for about six and a half years now. And I came from another marketing role in finance and I joined the founder, essentially, of the business. And he had been running the business since the early 2000s on a .com and he was looking for a little bit of extra help and support. And I came in and really sort of stepped into a marketing role and took on a lot of operations. as the years rolled on, we started to grow the team. When the business started to get a bit more traction, I moved into the front position and to the role of CEO, which I'm doing now and have been doing for about two years now.

Richard:
Wow. So I think, I mean, myself and Jeremy probably first spoke probably, I don't know, maybe five years ago, maybe? No, maybe quite four or five years ago. And obviously it's brilliant to see the growth. Obviously when we first spoke you were on the marketing side and we would have a lot of conversations around paid ads particularly at the time. And over the years we've talked about a lot of different things and work beyond various projects over the years. But it's great to see. I think we'll have a lot of listers on this episode that are marketers. The market that obviously has their aspirations to grow through the ranks in a business. So obviously when you started it was a handful of people, two or three people sort of thing.

Jeremy:
Yeah. So we were five in the team and we're about 25 now, so we're still a very small business. But yeah, we have grown the business over the years.

Richard:
So you've been selling fish obviously for, well you've been there obviously six and a half years, but a lot longer as a company. And I guess, well, I know that during when COVID kicked in, where are we now? Two and a half-ish years ago. Obviously that was quite a concern at the time, but I think there wasn't a lot of options to go to. Your fish monger was the back then it was basically impossible to go because obviously everything was closed. So how was the initial-

Jeremy:
How was COVID, yeah? So it was like you say Richard, it started with oh no, what's this going to mean? And then very quickly as Boris sort of made the announcement on the TV, "Hey, why don't you all go and buy your food online?" It just really petro on the fire and I think we moved into a sort of 400% growth position at that point and that was overnight. And really the aim of the game in those early days was, okay, let's not in a crude way take advantage, but let's just do our best to accept as many orders and send out as much fish as we can.
A, because we want to get people the fish. But this is a moment and let's step up. So we move the operation to seven days a week and we went onto a night shift as well. So for an extended period of time we didn't shut actually, so it was seven days a week, 24 hours a day. And that allowed us to continue pushing forward. And six weeks into it we signed a 10 year lease on a building which was five times the size, which is where I'm currently sat now. We really lent into it and push forward.

Richard:
Wow. And I mean we were chatting slightly before we came on, but obviously that's a 400% in those early months and that sort of oncoming year after COVID. But then for those that are listening, obviously that's amazing. But then here we are two-ish years later on if you like. And obviously still the growth is there. So that investment back then probably quite heavily in acquisition, obviously driving awareness, driving new business. But how important has it been to retain those customers moving forward with your growth? So there's sort more obviously trying to get these guys to buy again and again and recommend and things like that.

Jeremy:
Essential. And I think obviously nowadays in the paid media landscape, knowing your customer lifetime value, your 12 month spend on a new customer versus existing customer is entirely key. I mean, I take my hat off to the people who can acquire customers really profitably on the first order. I mean, that's great, but I don't think that's a game that a lot of people are playing in BBC at the moment. So lifetime value is really key. Email marketing, print marketing, these types of things, these have been really crucial for us. We are pretty hardcore on emails, so I think we are in the 97th percentile of emails sent when you go on the Klaviyo dashboard. And not just batch and blast. I mean, as many people did more sophisticated with who gets what. And I think our product lends itself really nicely to that because we sell lots of different types of fish.
People have got lots of different preferences and recipes that go with that type of fish, or you've got a lot of expected reorder dates flying around in that point, replenishment's quite a good thing and once you eat it, what's your next meal that you need some fish? We're lucky in that respect that actually we are blessed with reasonably good retention rates. And actually we were a bit nervous that all of the new customers that came on in COVID were drift away in droves. And sure, some, they did. But actually if you compare our retention rates to the COVID cohorts versus pre-COVID, they act pretty similar. And actually you're going to have some drop. And you do, but there were reasonably good customers that we got through that period.

Richard:
What would you say is the percentage of the email drive now in terms of turnover?

Jeremy:
I would say 35% of total revenue.

Richard:
That's what I would expect sort of thing. That would was sort of 35 would be. We talk about it in a lot of recent episodes, it's been a big part of the podcast and the agency for the last of a year, obviously lifetime value you with the increasing-

Jeremy:
I mean, where do you see benchmark? Is 35% high?

Richard:
35% is we see as sort the given number really what is to be expected, yeah. I mean, obviously you mentioned Klaviyo. I'm referring to Klaviyo. So that's what they would sort of say and any sort of calculator that they have. And that fits well with our profile of our customers, really 35 is a good average if we had to pick a number, which is good. But it's a lot, isn't it, ultimately. If you're not doing email and then hang on, well, here's 35% extra money. We know there are listeners listening right now that are not running email. So we've said this many, many, many, many times, but we've got peak season, literally we're right in it when this goes live. So if you're not running flipping email and you want 35% next year, it's a simple equation really.

Jeremy:
Yeah, definitely. And I think for us as well, one of the things that we really liked about email, particularly coming out of the previous period, is that a lot of macro factors happened to you as a business, whereas email was something that seemingly you could control and the amount of effort you put into it could dictate the outcome that you're going to get. Whereas pay me their landscape, difficult, still viable but difficult, and email has just felt more stable.

Richard:
Yeah, that's a great point. Ultimately you own that list. That they are either your customers or potential customers, that's your asset as opposed to your advertising an asset that you can't control, that you can't decide what to pay. Obviously you know what an email's going to cost you, next to nothing to send them. Fractions of a penny sort of thing as opposed to a click on a platform that obviously that has its day. Absolutely. But ultimately, can control it, you own it, and you know that you can control the cost very easily with it.

Jeremy:
And I think just talking about control, one of the things that we were wanting to do ahead of peak season, but Friday Christmas, all of that was how do we get more email signups with the same amount of traffic? And simple popup tweaks, times that can be used the specific offer when et cetera. We thought we had hit the peak of that, but we were just doing a lot of AB testing and we went from a couple thousand signups a month to... Well, we tripled it basically by just tweaking a few-

Richard:
AB testing.

Jeremy:
And I think AB testing is one of these things that you know should do and whatever, but actually on this occasion it did actually pay off well for us.

Richard:
That's great, that's great. Let's get into it. So I think USPs is an interesting one. Obviously a lot of people doing every niche. There is a lot of people. I hate to say it but probably not a lot, a lot, but there is a lot of competition in what you do. And how have you managed now your USPs?

Jeremy:
Well, Richard and I might put you on the spot here a little bit, but I mean you've known the business for a while now. What would you say our USPs are? Can you say them back?

Richard:
I think I can, but to a degree. I like what you've done there. You bugger. Obviously, it's 25 years. I think I've got my numbers right.

Jeremy:
Yeah, yeah. We're good.

Richard:
But then I think to myself, you won't be the only one. Obviously it's the freshness of the fish and the range of the fish. So I think it's 400 fishes-ish.

Jeremy:
Yeah, yeah. That would be a big one.

Richard:
Obviously there's no doubt that the 20, it's up 20 fishes that are there. The prawns and the core lines. There's the delivery side of things. So obviously speed. It's quite late in the day to get it the next morning. And then over to you.

Jeremy:
Well, no, I think I only do that to see well how well are we actually projecting these USPs. But yeah, fine. We've been doing this for 25 years, 400 fish. I think the key thing that we are trying to push and the key USP that we want to challenge the fish industry, are fish retailer, is that frozen fish is better than what is conventionally sold as fresh fish. So in the market people believe that fresh is best because that's how it's been portrayed over the years. If you go into any supermarket right now and you go to a pack of fish, you flip it over, on the back, I guarantee you, it will say this fish has been defrosted for sale to be sold as fresh. And essentially all that's happening is everyone's freezing it anyway and then they're defrosting it because the consumer believes that's going to be better. But what we are saying is well, wait a minute, why are you going to do that? Let it sit on the shelves for a couple of days and maybe you take it home, maybe you'll freeze it, maybe you won't.
And what we are saying is well we'll just get the fish as quickly as possible from wherever it is. We freeze it commercially and we just pause the clock on quality. And so these are our USPs and this is how we get there. We really believe that in everything that we do around that is that. And I think we sell fish, which is a fairly big industry, you can imagine. A lot of people in the country eat fish. I think last year retail sales of fish in the UK were about $4 billion. And what we are trying to do is say, well, wait a minute, we want to challenge what the status quo is and there's a better way to do it and that is frozen. Because there's also other benefits. There's a hell of a lot of food waste in fresh fish. And I think from a sustainability point of view, from a cost perspective, there's a lot of benefits in trying to adopt better techniques when it comes to food.

Richard:
I think you get that across well on your side. I think also that sort of branding, I call it branding, that look and feel of the way you do things looks very good and very strong, very professional. Where I think a lot of people that are maybe bridge in between, it's going from five to 10 mil, 10. A lot of people are still not investing in their branding, their look, their feel, their video, their brand story. I think you guys just do it so well, which I think it's got to help that those conversion rates, those first orders. Obviously that intergration piece.

Jeremy:
We did a piece of work with some outside consultants and they were looking at what we're doing and how we're positioning ourselves. And they said something, they said, "The problem you guys have got in your industry is you're all just trying to sell fish and this is the wrong thing. You shouldn't be trying to sell fish. What you're trying to do is you are trying to sell yourself as the company who's going to actually ultimately deliver on the meal and experience that they're invested in."
Because someone comes to our eCommerce site to buy fish because for some reason in the supermarket they're not getting what they want. And every human in the UK over 25 probably goes to the supermarket once a week. So something's driven them to do something different. What you got to do is say, "Okay, what's that experience they're after? And why are they going to trust us to deliver that meal when they're sat around that table with a fairly expensive product to make them look good in front of their friends?" So the company can deliver and this is where the fish is from and this is your guarantee if it doesn't work well. So there is no risk to you to buy from us.

Richard:
Yeah, yeah. Good. I would say maybe rewind at this point to step back for a couple of minutes because there's some good stuff there. I think a lot of people, they just don't focus on that area around the USPs and that sort of brand story. Obviously, see that's your differentiate. More than likely in most industries to most people listening. If you're selling a similar product, which a lot of people will be, no matter who's listening within reason. So trying to differentiate. So obviously some good times, but amongst those times and sitting here right now on the verge of what might be our busiest few weeks of all time, obviously we'll see. What would you say is the biggest of challenges right now that you're facing.

Jeremy:
The past year has been difficult from a cost perspective to a business to our business. And we have a warehouse, a factory, freezers, processing. We buy a lot of materials and the cost have gone up significantly and that has made things difficult. We've had to put prices up and some of that we can't pass on because it just starts to get ridiculous. And also some turbulence in the supply chain. So I'll give you a quick little story. On September the second this year, it was, I think, I can't remember what day it was of the week, but at 9:00 AM in the morning we got sent an email from our dry ice supplier.
So dry ice is basically critical to our business and sending fish and keeping it frozen. And they said there is an ammonia problem, no one's producing ammonia because the gas prices have gone too high, therefore the factories have shut down. And the byproducts are producing ammonia is carbon dioxide, you freeze carbon dioxide, you get dry ice. So if you want to buy dry ice from us tomorrow, that's okay, sign this agreement, but it'll be 550% more tomorrow than it is today. And so if we had have proceeded down that route on a monthly basis, it would've probably been similar to me employing 15 or 20 more staff overnight without getting anything back. And that was just one cost. So we had to pivot, look for alternative vices, make some sense of it and luckily that has come back down. But that was a 24 hour, something needs to change. And jolting changes that have been quite tough for us.

Richard:
I guess that's a brilliant example because that's an extreme example, but that's the reality of running, stepping into the big shoes and running their business, isn't it? That things come along and never more so than the last couple of years. But I'm intrigued then what did you end up paying extra if anything then? Maybe not a 500% increase, but you had to... Was there any increase that you with a new product?

Jeremy:
So the problem with the new product is it inferior to dry ice. Dry ice is essentially the pinnacle of shipping frozen product through a courier network at ambient temperatures, i.e., using a normal DPD van. And then you step back down from that and you get things that are reasonably good alternatives but not as good as dry ice. So the price actually wasn't too dissimilar to what we were paying on dry ice. But the problem is you get little quality problems might creep in. And at that time we were putting in a letter in each box saying, "Hey guys, this is the situation, you're all reasonable, I think you'll understand."
And people were reasonable, but were fish defrosting a bit by the time it got to them? And over 5,000, 6,000, 7,000, 8,000 orders, what's the impact that you're starting to see? Now luckily that has gone and it has stepped down, but it will happen again whether it's on the ice, whether or it's on something else, I'm not sure. And I think we just have to take a deep breath when it happens and say well we got to keep moving forward and what's the idea, the best idea today, let's do it and see how it works out.

Richard:
So breaking it down, looking at the options, obviously that immediate email and those immediate phone calls that might come in with something that's pretty potentially traumatic or is quite an extreme explanation. But if I'm just-

Jeremy:
It is. Because immediately when that happens your mind goes to, well, this is going to be terrible for the business and this is going to be detrimental. And oh, my gosh, our product is just not going to get to them in a good state. But you work through it, you get on the other side of it and you say, "Well, actually, okay people are fairly reasonable and it only lasted for three weeks, so hey."

Richard:
We were talking similarly, not exactly the same but ultimately, this last couple of years amongst that it won't stop. That's just running a business isn't it? These things will come along. A lot of uncertainty, a lot of change, but that's supply, products, demand. Obviously you've had a real uplift in a lot of demand but obviously a lot of people haven't had to move to different products and things like that. But it's just that resilience and going through that specific thing. And when you step back over a week, over a month, three months, six months and look back and it's a distant memory sort of thing and it's probably that two or three more challenges have come along. Well, then again that's only a couple of months ago. But that is sort of part and parcel isn't it? And that sort of builds a stronger business person and only stripes in those situations don't you, I think?

Jeremy:
It does. And I think the aggressiveness of the step through and up into the COVID surge was quite good for the team because a lot of our team is still the same team that we got during that time. And because people just had to do things that were very different to their normal day-to-day to get the job done. When something comes up we are a little bit more resilient.

Richard:
You've got a good team around you, which is probably for another episode we could talk about team and scale and things like that. But that's a great one isn't it? Ultimately you've got to get the right people around you. So you touched on sort of cost. But has the exchange rates had a big impact in your business then those last couple of months?

Jeremy:
Yes, so pound is recovering, which is good. After Sudak has come in, which is all good, but we were at a low couple of weeks back. That was right at the point where we were buying a lot of product for Christmas and we import a lot and we pay a lot in euros, we pay in dollars, and that hurts. And typically the fish that we import will be a large transaction. So it moving a little bit will result in thousands. We're pleased to see that it's come back but it was a bit challenging at that time.

Richard:
Well, I know you guys have quite a sort of sophisticated forecasting internal system that you've built in house. And have you had to ramp things up with that? And take into account actually obviously there's quite a bit of uncertainty with the exchange rates, with the costs and maybe if you step us through that sort of forecasting piece as of business. Because I think a lot of people will sat here now listening. I mean, they will have forecasted by now, I assure you, as they're going to have some problems. But ultimately a lot of people listening, you've got this six week period. I know when I have my stores I had a lot of very iffy type, I remember having digital photo frames and having $250 grand on the scene. It was still, I had two containers not here on the 10th of December. Absolute nightmare sort of thing. I'd over ordered. Not over ordered but I'd gone for that particular product. Skin of my teeth type job that time round. But obviously that forecasting, getting things right around Christmas, bit of a juggling act. Talk us through that.

Jeremy:
Yeah, it's tough. The digital system that you talked about is something that we call Einstein and we have built it over probably 10 years now. And it does everything. I mean, it does a lot of our customer cohort tracking and performance, sales performance and everything. But from a stock management point of view, it's fully integrated from the fish coming in to being converted, working out the yields and the costs based on the market price of that day. Because fish is quite a complicated product, material, to work with because you know may buy a cod at this price one day and then it's 20% higher the next day, and then it's 30% lower the next day.
So you really have to have a very good system of adjusting that base price. That's been quite useful in how actually whilst the pound to Euro and other currencies has been uncomfortable, it has meant that well actually we can deal with it because we deal with prices changing all the time. And in fact, as one of my colleagues, it's basically his job to do that, make sure we are adjusting our prices where we have to adjust our prices
This also gives us reasonably good data to forecast what we're going to sell. And from a Christmas perspective, we look at what we sold last year. We make expectations of what we expect to sell this year with a certain crude percentage increase. And then you can reverse engineer the packs of fish back to what you need to buy. So for example, Richard, you and your family really like sushi and you want to have some sushi this Christmas. So I may say, "Okay, well, I've got to see that we need X thousand packs of salmon sushi." Okay. Well, let's convert that back. How many kilos of salmon does that actually mean I need to buy and what date do I need to buy it with?
And then because the script runs on a day by day basis, it will up update that outcome forecast and it means that we can buy picks and trusts. Because the other thing is that you can also be very focused on Christmas and saying, "Okay, this is what I need for Christmas." But you've also got responsibilities in August, September, October and November to make the sales because we start this preparation in the 1st of August for Christmas stuff. And you can't lose sight of your responsibilities in the moment as well, which sometimes you're too focused on Christmas and whatnot.

Richard:
It's an interesting time I think. And I think January is always one where ultimately a lot of bills need to be paid as a merchant. You've got your 30, 60, 90 days depending on what products you're selling. But then obviously Christmas comes and goes and then it's a bit of a... Okay, can we need to pay the bill. We've got those bills to pay. So obviously really planning and forecasting is so, so key. But I think quite a lot of people still obviously depending on the size of the business, but I think looking at whether there's what technology that you can use within your industry or you guys have done build something bespoke and integrate that over the years as things get more complex.
And I think what you're suggesting is obviously that you're going to need X, Y, Zed, but when you're seeing a potential drop, a little bit of drop in exchange rate, you can over automate, not so much over order, but maybe order at that point because you've got an extra couple of percent there and that will last you on the salmon like you say. Then, "Oh, it's high, we'll wait, we can wait a week. Oh crap, we really need some stock. We're going to have to pay over the odd sort of thing and then wait for the drop again." And you just sort of play in the market sort of thing.

Jeremy:
It is quite right. And I was doing a very similar example to this where we buy a tinned product that comes from Iceland. And Iceland the country, not the shop. And we were waiting to see if that would recover because that was a purchase of 40,000 tins. So there was quite a lot of that and it makes a lot of difference where you're going to buy. We'll play that one.

Richard:
Okay, brilliant. So let's move through. So what would you say about, obviously a lot of talk and reality around cost of living. Next year, a lot of sort of uncertainty. What are you doing anything specific to prepare for that or have you got any particular concerns regarding that?

Jeremy:
Yes, I have concerns. We are in a business to consumer. We are a business to consumer company. And if people have got less to spend, that will potentially have an impact on us. Arguably, I would hope that we are in a reasonably good position in that, yeah sure, we're a premium end the market but we're food. And people have got to eat and people still want to enjoy themselves and they still want to have their friends around on a Friday night and make something. And perhaps that may even become more popular as going out to a restaurant and buying a bottle of wine at a restaurant. That all costs a bit of money.
And maybe there's something more to be said for, well get your mates around and do something more at home. And so hopefully we'll be talking to some of our customers in that respect. We have touched on looking at, well, do we need to offer different product lines or something that's more affordable to bring these costs down? And we have looked at that and we have toyed with some larger bulk purchases that people could do that, freezer fillers and all these types of things.And we have a little bit of traction, but honestly, it hasn't been significant. And looking back on that, which is something that we did in reaction earlier, I don't think we're going to push that particularly hard. I think we'll keep it, but I think we just keep to the core of what we're doing, keep the quality good and really work with our customers to give them great experiences on a Friday, Saturday night. And that will be where we're going to be. And I think we're already in the cost of living crisis, or at least the news makes it feel like we are. So we'll see what comes next. But we can't and we're not going to try and totally turn the business on its head. We've been doing this for 25 years, selling the best product, and the best products comes at certain pricing, that's where we're going to stay.

Richard:
Yeah. That's a great answer Jeremy. Great answer. So let's move on to sustainability. What are you guys doing or what are you planning on doing on the sustainability side?

Jeremy:
Yeah, sure. Well, the main topic here will be fish because we buy a lot of fish and we sell a lot of fish. And fish has different sustainability stories depending on how it's caught, where it's caught, how it's tracked, all of these things. Firstly, fish sustainability is extremely complex and there's obviously been Seaspiracy, which really raised it to sort national talking level. And sure that there are issues in the industry that the problem comes, or at least from our perspective, is that a lot of the issues are oversimplified and things are more complex when you actually get into it and scratch the surface. And that's not someone practicing in the industry saying, "Oh, you don't understand that." There are problems. But the truth also is that there are really good activities going on in the industry. And also a lot of people need to eat fish to survive and it is a staple part of people's diet.
So what I would say is, "Well, okay, instead of we're not eradicating fish here, we're just trying to do better practices and what's the future look like and how are we going to be doing that?" So we have an internal working group called our Sustainability Council. It's a little bit of a grand name but that's what we call it. And that's a cross section of people working on the customer experience side, our stock buying system side, my side and founder of the business. And we systematically review where we buy certain fish from, how it's caught, and how convinced we are with the supply chain behind it. Are there better alternatives? Is it flow fresh into the country? Is it ship frozen? Does it come from down the road?
Because there's a number of factors that will ultimately give us basically a rating. So we then produce an internal rating based on these different factors. And to the best of our ability, we post that on the product page at the bottom of the description. So it'll say our sustainability rating for this fish is X out 10 and anything that drops below a certain number will be dropped off the list until we either find an alternative supply or it won't come back in.

Richard:
How long have you had that in place on the site? The sustainability rating?

Jeremy:
A year.

Richard:
Yeah. Have you seen a noticeable of uplifting business from that do you think?

Jeremy:
I don't think so. It would be great to say we had, I don't know, or perhaps I can't tie it back to that. But I think it's necessary and I think it's good and I haven't had a lot of customer feedback on it, but I believe people do appreciate that because I think people want to eat fish. They just sometimes feel a bit like, "Oh, god, there was this Netflix documentary and I don't really think I can eat." And I kind of want to order fish on the menu, but now I'm sat with all my friends and will they judge me? And we can take the pressure away from them and just say, "Well, we have done the hard work. We talked to hundreds suppliers, we import fish, we know what's going on, we know what's truly hook and line and what's not. Here's our rating." And it's not perfect, but we have taken all the information we have and given you something that we think is reasonable for you to go out and make a decision on.

Richard:
I think that's brilliant. I think we did an episode probably about two months ago on a similar strand amount of sustainability meeting. There's a company called Day Rise, I think the company the name is... It's all products, so they obviously attract back that whole supply, whole supply line and all the different things that are used along that process. I think that's great. I think that's great. I would argue that's got to make a difference. Obviously, it's hard to necessarily track with all the different factors that have been going on well last year since you've implemented it, but I think that will become, if not already, more and more of shant I buy from these guys or these guys? Especially with fish.

Jeremy:
Yeah, definitely. And I think it ties into storytelling really well and it should become part of the storytelling because I think half of selling a piece of fish is saying where it's come from and why we bought this one and why it's actually sustainable and this was the fisherman who caught it and hey, you know what, this is a great way to cook it. Because another problem with our product is that people are a little bit nervous about wrecking up a 18 pound steak of turbot. It's a great experience but it can go wrong quite easily. So getting people comfortable with how to cook it is a big thing.

Richard:
Brilliant. Okay, so we're going to move on. Last few questions. So Black Friday obviously is literally on the doorstep as this episode goes live. Talk us through what's worked well over the years and also sort of what the focus is this year if anything at all?

Jeremy:
If anything at all. So we're doing something different this year to what we've done previously. Our previous setups for the last two or three years have been, we always run an offer in November all month long. And this is our pre-Christmas offer. And we've done this for the last 10 years, probably before Black Friday was big. And the idea there is we want to incentivize existing customers to get their Christmas orders in and delivered in November, pop it in the freezer to help operationally in December. So that runs all month long. And then in the previous couple of years we've culminated with a product specific sale in that black Friday period.

Richard:
The November thing is to try and shift the demand and bring it forward.

Jeremy:
Yeah, exactly. So we're trying to get as many customers Christmas orders done in November so that when we get to December we're always operationally stretched so we can start to pull some of that forward a little bit. And so we give them an offer. And in a way we're also saying, "Look, here's your offer. We're not really going to do this in December, so get your orders in now." And it tends to work quite well. But sure, we get to the end of the month and everyone's doing the Black Friday stuff. And previously we have done sales on products. So you may have 15, 20 different fish on a specific line discount. And we would then, as the sale rolls on as it gets longer and longer, then two days later, "Okay, we've dropped new lines," and "Okay," two days later we've dropped new lines. And I think that was good from a you clear out stock that you've overstocked in, or you've got-

Richard:
Yeah

Jeremy:
Yeah, and you've got a good... It means you can keep your communications going when your communications fresh because obviously there's a lot flying around in that period and you need something new to talk about, but this year we are going to do something different. The downside of doing it that way is that you've got a global voucher code discount and then you've got line discounts. And you compound the two discounts together and it actually erodes the margin you're going to make and how worth it really is it? And that's one thought. So this year we're going to basically do a tiered promotional code offer. So the baseline is going to be the offer that we've been running throughout November, then there'll be like a second tier and maybe a third tier. And it's just to incentivize AOV. And we will offer reasonably good discounts.
So I'm thinking, we've got to work this out, it's a 15% off everything at the moment and then that might step up to 20% or 25%, and then the next one may be up to 30$. But if you're going to be getting 30% off, we're going to be asking you to spend 150 pounds of more. And A, it might keep the sale a bit easier but cleaner. And B, it incentivizes AOV and we've got certain costs to ship one parcel to a person. So if we can get that AOV up, even the bigger discounts will work out better from a contribution margin perspective.

Richard:
No, I like that. 150 pound on fish for Christmas, you have a little bit left for your New Year's party and your New Year's fish pie.

Jeremy:
Our AOV at the moment is 75 quid. And so if you got Christmas coming up and you got a couple of events, hey you know could-

Richard:
I remember a story you told me, maybe I've probably got half of it, but a bit of a tangent. But you have a chap, you probably got a of people, but remember you telling me, this is probably about three years ago you told me this, or two years ago you told me this that yeah, Chap Scotland that orders two grands worth of, I can't remember what it was now. And it's like, It's not a hotel or anything, it's like personal.

Jeremy:
So he's still here and he still keeps going. And so no, Scotland is where he fishes for salmon in the summer. That's his Scotland house, but he's also got one down here. But I think he is a regular guy, he really likes fish, he's obviously done quite well in his life. And I think he has now broken the 100,000 pound mark spend on Phish with us.

Richard:
Wow. There is the headline for this episode, the 100,000 customer fish, the fish man. And it's a Fish. I thought I like prongs, but that's pushing it.

Jeremy:
No, he really enjoys his fish.

Richard:
Oh, that's brilliant. Well thanks, Jeremy. It's been absolute blast. I've got a couple of, well of three final questions to finish with. If you could give one bit of advice to the CEOs and aspiring CEOs that are listening, what would it be?

Jeremy:
I think similar to what you've said in this podcast and what we were maybe talking about earlier, which is the last couple of years have had a lot of peaks and troughs and you can feel like a hero when you're at the top and you can feel like you're losing super bad when you're at the bottom. And realistically, you've got to try and detach yourself a little bit from the highs and lows and as long as you're moving in the right direction, it's all good. So the piece of advice is just keep going and try and take a bit of a macro view because the highs and the lows at the moment have been higher and lower than they have been previously. And if you attach your personal performance always to the highs and the lows of the business, when there's macro factors, you might beat yourself up a bit too much, or think you're winning a bit too much.

Richard:
Jeremy, that is brilliant. Brilliant. So first of all time, next 12 months, what's in the pipeline for the Fish Society?

Jeremy:
Well, major growth, worldwide domination, all of that.

Richard:
As usual.

Jeremy:
All of that stuff. We're coming for you. But no, continued growth. Working on our attention to make the most out of our customers. But in terms of tangible things, you will see the ability to subscribe to Fish from us come through. So subscription is going to roll out next year and we're going to be doing a lot of new product differentiation. So we've just finished investing in a production kitchen where we will have full time chefs producing different meals. And that-

Richard:
You talked about that I think probably a year or so ago you said that was in the pipeline maybe a year and a half ago. I think we lasted a real chat sort of a bit.

Jeremy:
Yeah, yeah. It was in the pipeline and we finally did it. And that is opening up in about two weeks and it will really kick off from next year. But what's awesome about that is there's so much search data about what recipes people are interested in and if we can just create recipes based on that, it's going to be great.

Richard:
Recipe schema. My SEO hat comes straight on. SEO schema is a great one. We have a couple of clients who have a very, very, very large client that has tool 200 and something stores, food stores actually. And recipe schema. Great one. I've got another question that's just come to the top of my head. So subscription, I actually, during COVID subscribed to quite a lot of things I think a lot of people did, and still subscribe to the ones. And one of them was, I won't say any brand name on air if you like right now, but it was a coffee brand. And I open the coffee brand and your flyer was in there. This was probably two years ago now. So when you talk about subscription, obviously they're a subscription company and obviously you, you've partnered with that particular firm. I'm Sure many others have. How's that work, that sort of partnering piece?

Jeremy:
Yeah, so Well, full disclamation. came out. We've never actually been able to make it work on a consistent and scalable basis. Yeah, I wish we could sit here and say we could because it looks like the Holy Grail of cheap customer acquisition, but we haven't been able to. On that one. We did get some new customers from it and we actually were put together with a third party printer who got a bit in the market and said, "Wait a minute, I'm printing for all of these e-commerce customers who are sending to their own customers. Why don't I just put them in touch? I won't take a commission. But the deal is they have to print through me." And so we got put in touch with this guy who does that. And we've done it over the years with coffee companies, other food companies, this, that and the other.
And it's great. And I think there's other benefits other than just how many codes got used. For example, Richard, you got our flyer and it's exposure. We're looking at some partnerships for next year. I think we are just going to try and pick a... Not do as many at once and pick ones that we think we can put more time and effort into and closer integrate. So there'll be a lot more sort of website cohesion and we might have product selling on their websites and they might have it on ours. And then box inserts may just be one tactic within a wider partnership as opposed to just small tactics.

Richard:
Brilliant. Well, it has been a pleasure, Jeremy. Final, final, final, final question, book recommendation. I'll like to finish every episode with a book that you'd recommend to our listeners.

Jeremy:
Yes. And I'm not just saying this cause I like fish, but the book is called How to Eat the Big Fish and it's how challenger brands can compete against brand leaders. So if you're thinking about the Fish Society after this, this is the epitome of us trying to chase down the supermarkets and buying fish from the supermarkets. And if you're a small brand working in an established category, this is a cool book.

Richard:
How apt, how apt.

Jeremy:
That's brilliant. Well thanks Jeremy. So for the guys that want to find out more about the Fish Society, more about you, what's the best way to do that?
The fishsociety.co.uk. See you now.

Richard:
Brilliant. Well thanks for coming on the eCom@One show. I look forward to speaking to you again.

Jeremy:
Cheers, Richard.

Richard:
Cheers, Jeremy.

Richard:
Hi, and welcome to another episode of eCom@One. Today's guest, Jeremy Grieve, CEO of the Fish Society. How you doing, Jeremy?

Jeremy:
Very well, thank you, Richard. All good.

Richard:
Brilliant. Well, thank you for coming on. I know it's a very, very busy time of year, gearing up for the city season as we call it, but I think it'd be great to kick off if you introduce yourself. Tell you about your background, how you started at the Fish Society and how you became the CEO of the Fish Society.

Jeremy:
Cool. Well, the Fish Society firstly is an online fish monger. We sell fish to customers around the UK through the website. And my journey through the Fish Society, so I've been here for about six and a half years now. And I came from another marketing role in finance and I joined the founder, essentially, of the business. And he had been running the business since the early 2000s on a .com and he was looking for a little bit of extra help and support. And I came in and really sort of stepped into a marketing role and took on a lot of operations. as the years rolled on, we started to grow the team. When the business started to get a bit more traction, I moved into the front position and to the role of CEO, which I'm doing now and have been doing for about two years now.

Richard:
Wow. So I think, I mean, myself and Jeremy probably first spoke probably, I don't know, maybe five years ago, maybe? No, maybe quite four or five years ago. And obviously it's brilliant to see the growth. Obviously when we first spoke you were on the marketing side and we would have a lot of conversations around paid ads particularly at the time. And over the years we've talked about a lot of different things and work beyond various projects over the years. But it's great to see. I think we'll have a lot of listers on this episode that are marketers. The market that obviously has their aspirations to grow through the ranks in a business. So obviously when you started it was a handful of people, two or three people sort of thing.

Jeremy:
Yeah. So we were five in the team and we're about 25 now, so we're still a very small business. But yeah, we have grown the business over the years.

Richard:
So you've been selling fish obviously for, well you've been there obviously six and a half years, but a lot longer as a company. And I guess, well, I know that during when COVID kicked in, where are we now? Two and a half-ish years ago. Obviously that was quite a concern at the time, but I think there wasn't a lot of options to go to. Your fish monger was the back then it was basically impossible to go because obviously everything was closed. So how was the initial-

Jeremy:
How was COVID, yeah? So it was like you say Richard, it started with oh no, what's this going to mean? And then very quickly as Boris sort of made the announcement on the TV, "Hey, why don't you all go and buy your food online?" It just really petro on the fire and I think we moved into a sort of 400% growth position at that point and that was overnight. And really the aim of the game in those early days was, okay, let's not in a crude way take advantage, but let's just do our best to accept as many orders and send out as much fish as we can.
A, because we want to get people the fish. But this is a moment and let's step up. So we move the operation to seven days a week and we went onto a night shift as well. So for an extended period of time we didn't shut actually, so it was seven days a week, 24 hours a day. And that allowed us to continue pushing forward. And six weeks into it we signed a 10 year lease on a building which was five times the size, which is where I'm currently sat now. We really lent into it and push forward.

Richard:
Wow. And I mean we were chatting slightly before we came on, but obviously that's a 400% in those early months and that sort of oncoming year after COVID. But then for those that are listening, obviously that's amazing. But then here we are two-ish years later on if you like. And obviously still the growth is there. So that investment back then probably quite heavily in acquisition, obviously driving awareness, driving new business. But how important has it been to retain those customers moving forward with your growth? So there's sort more obviously trying to get these guys to buy again and again and recommend and things like that.

Jeremy:
Essential. And I think obviously nowadays in the paid media landscape, knowing your customer lifetime value, your 12 month spend on a new customer versus existing customer is entirely key. I mean, I take my hat off to the people who can acquire customers really profitably on the first order. I mean, that's great, but I don't think that's a game that a lot of people are playing in BBC at the moment. So lifetime value is really key. Email marketing, print marketing, these types of things, these have been really crucial for us. We are pretty hardcore on emails, so I think we are in the 97th percentile of emails sent when you go on the Klaviyo dashboard. And not just batch and blast. I mean, as many people did more sophisticated with who gets what. And I think our product lends itself really nicely to that because we sell lots of different types of fish.
People have got lots of different preferences and recipes that go with that type of fish, or you've got a lot of expected reorder dates flying around in that point, replenishment's quite a good thing and once you eat it, what's your next meal that you need some fish? We're lucky in that respect that actually we are blessed with reasonably good retention rates. And actually we were a bit nervous that all of the new customers that came on in COVID were drift away in droves. And sure, some, they did. But actually if you compare our retention rates to the COVID cohorts versus pre-COVID, they act pretty similar. And actually you're going to have some drop. And you do, but there were reasonably good customers that we got through that period.

Richard:
What would you say is the percentage of the email drive now in terms of turnover?

Jeremy:
I would say 35% of total revenue.

Richard:
That's what I would expect sort of thing. That would was sort of 35 would be. We talk about it in a lot of recent episodes, it's been a big part of the podcast and the agency for the last of a year, obviously lifetime value you with the increasing-

Jeremy:
I mean, where do you see benchmark? Is 35% high?

Richard:
35% is we see as sort the given number really what is to be expected, yeah. I mean, obviously you mentioned Klaviyo. I'm referring to Klaviyo. So that's what they would sort of say and any sort of calculator that they have. And that fits well with our profile of our customers, really 35 is a good average if we had to pick a number, which is good. But it's a lot, isn't it, ultimately. If you're not doing email and then hang on, well, here's 35% extra money. We know there are listeners listening right now that are not running email. So we've said this many, many, many, many times, but we've got peak season, literally we're right in it when this goes live. So if you're not running flipping email and you want 35% next year, it's a simple equation really.

Jeremy:
Yeah, definitely. And I think for us as well, one of the things that we really liked about email, particularly coming out of the previous period, is that a lot of macro factors happened to you as a business, whereas email was something that seemingly you could control and the amount of effort you put into it could dictate the outcome that you're going to get. Whereas pay me their landscape, difficult, still viable but difficult, and email has just felt more stable.

Richard:
Yeah, that's a great point. Ultimately you own that list. That they are either your customers or potential customers, that's your asset as opposed to your advertising an asset that you can't control, that you can't decide what to pay. Obviously you know what an email's going to cost you, next to nothing to send them. Fractions of a penny sort of thing as opposed to a click on a platform that obviously that has its day. Absolutely. But ultimately, can control it, you own it, and you know that you can control the cost very easily with it.

Jeremy:
And I think just talking about control, one of the things that we were wanting to do ahead of peak season, but Friday Christmas, all of that was how do we get more email signups with the same amount of traffic? And simple popup tweaks, times that can be used the specific offer when et cetera. We thought we had hit the peak of that, but we were just doing a lot of AB testing and we went from a couple thousand signups a month to... Well, we tripled it basically by just tweaking a few-

Richard:
AB testing.

Jeremy:
And I think AB testing is one of these things that you know should do and whatever, but actually on this occasion it did actually pay off well for us.

Richard:
That's great, that's great. Let's get into it. So I think USPs is an interesting one. Obviously a lot of people doing every niche. There is a lot of people. I hate to say it but probably not a lot, a lot, but there is a lot of competition in what you do. And how have you managed now your USPs?

Jeremy:
Well, Richard and I might put you on the spot here a little bit, but I mean you've known the business for a while now. What would you say our USPs are? Can you say them back?

Richard:
I think I can, but to a degree. I like what you've done there. You bugger. Obviously, it's 25 years. I think I've got my numbers right.

Jeremy:
Yeah, yeah. We're good.

Richard:
But then I think to myself, you won't be the only one. Obviously it's the freshness of the fish and the range of the fish. So I think it's 400 fishes-ish.

Jeremy:
Yeah, yeah. That would be a big one.

Richard:
Obviously there's no doubt that the 20, it's up 20 fishes that are there. The prawns and the core lines. There's the delivery side of things. So obviously speed. It's quite late in the day to get it the next morning. And then over to you.

Jeremy:
Well, no, I think I only do that to see well how well are we actually projecting these USPs. But yeah, fine. We've been doing this for 25 years, 400 fish. I think the key thing that we are trying to push and the key USP that we want to challenge the fish industry, are fish retailer, is that frozen fish is better than what is conventionally sold as fresh fish. So in the market people believe that fresh is best because that's how it's been portrayed over the years. If you go into any supermarket right now and you go to a pack of fish, you flip it over, on the back, I guarantee you, it will say this fish has been defrosted for sale to be sold as fresh. And essentially all that's happening is everyone's freezing it anyway and then they're defrosting it because the consumer believes that's going to be better. But what we are saying is well, wait a minute, why are you going to do that? Let it sit on the shelves for a couple of days and maybe you take it home, maybe you'll freeze it, maybe you won't.
And what we are saying is well we'll just get the fish as quickly as possible from wherever it is. We freeze it commercially and we just pause the clock on quality. And so these are our USPs and this is how we get there. We really believe that in everything that we do around that is that. And I think we sell fish, which is a fairly big industry, you can imagine. A lot of people in the country eat fish. I think last year retail sales of fish in the UK were about $4 billion. And what we are trying to do is say, well, wait a minute, we want to challenge what the status quo is and there's a better way to do it and that is frozen. Because there's also other benefits. There's a hell of a lot of food waste in fresh fish. And I think from a sustainability point of view, from a cost perspective, there's a lot of benefits in trying to adopt better techniques when it comes to food.

Richard:
I think you get that across well on your side. I think also that sort of branding, I call it branding, that look and feel of the way you do things looks very good and very strong, very professional. Where I think a lot of people that are maybe bridge in between, it's going from five to 10 mil, 10. A lot of people are still not investing in their branding, their look, their feel, their video, their brand story. I think you guys just do it so well, which I think it's got to help that those conversion rates, those first orders. Obviously that intergration piece.

Jeremy:
We did a piece of work with some outside consultants and they were looking at what we're doing and how we're positioning ourselves. And they said something, they said, "The problem you guys have got in your industry is you're all just trying to sell fish and this is the wrong thing. You shouldn't be trying to sell fish. What you're trying to do is you are trying to sell yourself as the company who's going to actually ultimately deliver on the meal and experience that they're invested in."
Because someone comes to our eCommerce site to buy fish because for some reason in the supermarket they're not getting what they want. And every human in the UK over 25 probably goes to the supermarket once a week. So something's driven them to do something different. What you got to do is say, "Okay, what's that experience they're after? And why are they going to trust us to deliver that meal when they're sat around that table with a fairly expensive product to make them look good in front of their friends?" So the company can deliver and this is where the fish is from and this is your guarantee if it doesn't work well. So there is no risk to you to buy from us.

Richard:
Yeah, yeah. Good. I would say maybe rewind at this point to step back for a couple of minutes because there's some good stuff there. I think a lot of people, they just don't focus on that area around the USPs and that sort of brand story. Obviously, see that's your differentiate. More than likely in most industries to most people listening. If you're selling a similar product, which a lot of people will be, no matter who's listening within reason. So trying to differentiate. So obviously some good times, but amongst those times and sitting here right now on the verge of what might be our busiest few weeks of all time, obviously we'll see. What would you say is the biggest of challenges right now that you're facing.

Jeremy:
The past year has been difficult from a cost perspective to a business to our business. And we have a warehouse, a factory, freezers, processing. We buy a lot of materials and the cost have gone up significantly and that has made things difficult. We've had to put prices up and some of that we can't pass on because it just starts to get ridiculous. And also some turbulence in the supply chain. So I'll give you a quick little story. On September the second this year, it was, I think, I can't remember what day it was of the week, but at 9:00 AM in the morning we got sent an email from our dry ice supplier.
So dry ice is basically critical to our business and sending fish and keeping it frozen. And they said there is an ammonia problem, no one's producing ammonia because the gas prices have gone too high, therefore the factories have shut down. And the byproducts are producing ammonia is carbon dioxide, you freeze carbon dioxide, you get dry ice. So if you want to buy dry ice from us tomorrow, that's okay, sign this agreement, but it'll be 550% more tomorrow than it is today. And so if we had have proceeded down that route on a monthly basis, it would've probably been similar to me employing 15 or 20 more staff overnight without getting anything back. And that was just one cost. So we had to pivot, look for alternative vices, make some sense of it and luckily that has come back down. But that was a 24 hour, something needs to change. And jolting changes that have been quite tough for us.

Richard:
I guess that's a brilliant example because that's an extreme example, but that's the reality of running, stepping into the big shoes and running their business, isn't it? That things come along and never more so than the last couple of years. But I'm intrigued then what did you end up paying extra if anything then? Maybe not a 500% increase, but you had to... Was there any increase that you with a new product?

Jeremy:
So the problem with the new product is it inferior to dry ice. Dry ice is essentially the pinnacle of shipping frozen product through a courier network at ambient temperatures, i.e., using a normal DPD van. And then you step back down from that and you get things that are reasonably good alternatives but not as good as dry ice. So the price actually wasn't too dissimilar to what we were paying on dry ice. But the problem is you get little quality problems might creep in. And at that time we were putting in a letter in each box saying, "Hey guys, this is the situation, you're all reasonable, I think you'll understand."
And people were reasonable, but were fish defrosting a bit by the time it got to them? And over 5,000, 6,000, 7,000, 8,000 orders, what's the impact that you're starting to see? Now luckily that has gone and it has stepped down, but it will happen again whether it's on the ice, whether or it's on something else, I'm not sure. And I think we just have to take a deep breath when it happens and say well we got to keep moving forward and what's the idea, the best idea today, let's do it and see how it works out.

Richard:
So breaking it down, looking at the options, obviously that immediate email and those immediate phone calls that might come in with something that's pretty potentially traumatic or is quite an extreme explanation. But if I'm just-

Jeremy:
It is. Because immediately when that happens your mind goes to, well, this is going to be terrible for the business and this is going to be detrimental. And oh, my gosh, our product is just not going to get to them in a good state. But you work through it, you get on the other side of it and you say, "Well, actually, okay people are fairly reasonable and it only lasted for three weeks, so hey."

Richard:
We were talking similarly, not exactly the same but ultimately, this last couple of years amongst that it won't stop. That's just running a business isn't it? These things will come along. A lot of uncertainty, a lot of change, but that's supply, products, demand. Obviously you've had a real uplift in a lot of demand but obviously a lot of people haven't had to move to different products and things like that. But it's just that resilience and going through that specific thing. And when you step back over a week, over a month, three months, six months and look back and it's a distant memory sort of thing and it's probably that two or three more challenges have come along. Well, then again that's only a couple of months ago. But that is sort of part and parcel isn't it? And that sort of builds a stronger business person and only stripes in those situations don't you, I think?

Jeremy:
It does. And I think the aggressiveness of the step through and up into the COVID surge was quite good for the team because a lot of our team is still the same team that we got during that time. And because people just had to do things that were very different to their normal day-to-day to get the job done. When something comes up we are a little bit more resilient.

Richard:
You've got a good team around you, which is probably for another episode we could talk about team and scale and things like that. But that's a great one isn't it? Ultimately you've got to get the right people around you. So you touched on sort of cost. But has the exchange rates had a big impact in your business then those last couple of months?

Jeremy:
Yes, so pound is recovering, which is good. After Sudak has come in, which is all good, but we were at a low couple of weeks back. That was right at the point where we were buying a lot of product for Christmas and we import a lot and we pay a lot in euros, we pay in dollars, and that hurts. And typically the fish that we import will be a large transaction. So it moving a little bit will result in thousands. We're pleased to see that it's come back but it was a bit challenging at that time.

Richard:
Well, I know you guys have quite a sort of sophisticated forecasting internal system that you've built in house. And have you had to ramp things up with that? And take into account actually obviously there's quite a bit of uncertainty with the exchange rates, with the costs and maybe if you step us through that sort of forecasting piece as of business. Because I think a lot of people will sat here now listening. I mean, they will have forecasted by now, I assure you, as they're going to have some problems. But ultimately a lot of people listening, you've got this six week period. I know when I have my stores I had a lot of very iffy type, I remember having digital photo frames and having $250 grand on the scene. It was still, I had two containers not here on the 10th of December. Absolute nightmare sort of thing. I'd over ordered. Not over ordered but I'd gone for that particular product. Skin of my teeth type job that time round. But obviously that forecasting, getting things right around Christmas, bit of a juggling act. Talk us through that.

Jeremy:
Yeah, it's tough. The digital system that you talked about is something that we call Einstein and we have built it over probably 10 years now. And it does everything. I mean, it does a lot of our customer cohort tracking and performance, sales performance and everything. But from a stock management point of view, it's fully integrated from the fish coming in to being converted, working out the yields and the costs based on the market price of that day. Because fish is quite a complicated product, material, to work with because you know may buy a cod at this price one day and then it's 20% higher the next day, and then it's 30% lower the next day.
So you really have to have a very good system of adjusting that base price. That's been quite useful in how actually whilst the pound to Euro and other currencies has been uncomfortable, it has meant that well actually we can deal with it because we deal with prices changing all the time. And in fact, as one of my colleagues, it's basically his job to do that, make sure we are adjusting our prices where we have to adjust our prices
This also gives us reasonably good data to forecast what we're going to sell. And from a Christmas perspective, we look at what we sold last year. We make expectations of what we expect to sell this year with a certain crude percentage increase. And then you can reverse engineer the packs of fish back to what you need to buy. So for example, Richard, you and your family really like sushi and you want to have some sushi this Christmas. So I may say, "Okay, well, I've got to see that we need X thousand packs of salmon sushi." Okay. Well, let's convert that back. How many kilos of salmon does that actually mean I need to buy and what date do I need to buy it with?
And then because the script runs on a day by day basis, it will up update that outcome forecast and it means that we can buy picks and trusts. Because the other thing is that you can also be very focused on Christmas and saying, "Okay, this is what I need for Christmas." But you've also got responsibilities in August, September, October and November to make the sales because we start this preparation in the 1st of August for Christmas stuff. And you can't lose sight of your responsibilities in the moment as well, which sometimes you're too focused on Christmas and whatnot.

Richard:
It's an interesting time I think. And I think January is always one where ultimately a lot of bills need to be paid as a merchant. You've got your 30, 60, 90 days depending on what products you're selling. But then obviously Christmas comes and goes and then it's a bit of a... Okay, can we need to pay the bill. We've got those bills to pay. So obviously really planning and forecasting is so, so key. But I think quite a lot of people still obviously depending on the size of the business, but I think looking at whether there's what technology that you can use within your industry or you guys have done build something bespoke and integrate that over the years as things get more complex.
And I think what you're suggesting is obviously that you're going to need X, Y, Zed, but when you're seeing a potential drop, a little bit of drop in exchange rate, you can over automate, not so much over order, but maybe order at that point because you've got an extra couple of percent there and that will last you on the salmon like you say. Then, "Oh, it's high, we'll wait, we can wait a week. Oh crap, we really need some stock. We're going to have to pay over the odd sort of thing and then wait for the drop again." And you just sort of play in the market sort of thing.

Jeremy:
It is quite right. And I was doing a very similar example to this where we buy a tinned product that comes from Iceland. And Iceland the country, not the shop. And we were waiting to see if that would recover because that was a purchase of 40,000 tins. So there was quite a lot of that and it makes a lot of difference where you're going to buy. We'll play that one.

Richard:
Okay, brilliant. So let's move through. So what would you say about, obviously a lot of talk and reality around cost of living. Next year, a lot of sort of uncertainty. What are you doing anything specific to prepare for that or have you got any particular concerns regarding that?

Jeremy:
Yes, I have concerns. We are in a business to consumer. We are a business to consumer company. And if people have got less to spend, that will potentially have an impact on us. Arguably, I would hope that we are in a reasonably good position in that, yeah sure, we're a premium end the market but we're food. And people have got to eat and people still want to enjoy themselves and they still want to have their friends around on a Friday night and make something. And perhaps that may even become more popular as going out to a restaurant and buying a bottle of wine at a restaurant. That all costs a bit of money.
And maybe there's something more to be said for, well get your mates around and do something more at home. And so hopefully we'll be talking to some of our customers in that respect. We have touched on looking at, well, do we need to offer different product lines or something that's more affordable to bring these costs down? And we have looked at that and we have toyed with some larger bulk purchases that people could do that, freezer fillers and all these types of things.And we have a little bit of traction, but honestly, it hasn't been significant. And looking back on that, which is something that we did in reaction earlier, I don't think we're going to push that particularly hard. I think we'll keep it, but I think we just keep to the core of what we're doing, keep the quality good and really work with our customers to give them great experiences on a Friday, Saturday night. And that will be where we're going to be. And I think we're already in the cost of living crisis, or at least the news makes it feel like we are. So we'll see what comes next. But we can't and we're not going to try and totally turn the business on its head. We've been doing this for 25 years, selling the best product, and the best products comes at certain pricing, that's where we're going to stay.

Richard:
Yeah. That's a great answer Jeremy. Great answer. So let's move on to sustainability. What are you guys doing or what are you planning on doing on the sustainability side?

Jeremy:
Yeah, sure. Well, the main topic here will be fish because we buy a lot of fish and we sell a lot of fish. And fish has different sustainability stories depending on how it's caught, where it's caught, how it's tracked, all of these things. Firstly, fish sustainability is extremely complex and there's obviously been Seaspiracy, which really raised it to sort national talking level. And sure that there are issues in the industry that the problem comes, or at least from our perspective, is that a lot of the issues are oversimplified and things are more complex when you actually get into it and scratch the surface. And that's not someone practicing in the industry saying, "Oh, you don't understand that." There are problems. But the truth also is that there are really good activities going on in the industry. And also a lot of people need to eat fish to survive and it is a staple part of people's diet.
So what I would say is, "Well, okay, instead of we're not eradicating fish here, we're just trying to do better practices and what's the future look like and how are we going to be doing that?" So we have an internal working group called our Sustainability Council. It's a little bit of a grand name but that's what we call it. And that's a cross section of people working on the customer experience side, our stock buying system side, my side and founder of the business. And we systematically review where we buy certain fish from, how it's caught, and how convinced we are with the supply chain behind it. Are there better alternatives? Is it flow fresh into the country? Is it ship frozen? Does it come from down the road?
Because there's a number of factors that will ultimately give us basically a rating. So we then produce an internal rating based on these different factors. And to the best of our ability, we post that on the product page at the bottom of the description. So it'll say our sustainability rating for this fish is X out 10 and anything that drops below a certain number will be dropped off the list until we either find an alternative supply or it won't come back in.

Richard:
How long have you had that in place on the site? The sustainability rating?

Jeremy:
A year.

Richard:
Yeah. Have you seen a noticeable of uplifting business from that do you think?

Jeremy:
I don't think so. It would be great to say we had, I don't know, or perhaps I can't tie it back to that. But I think it's necessary and I think it's good and I haven't had a lot of customer feedback on it, but I believe people do appreciate that because I think people want to eat fish. They just sometimes feel a bit like, "Oh, god, there was this Netflix documentary and I don't really think I can eat." And I kind of want to order fish on the menu, but now I'm sat with all my friends and will they judge me? And we can take the pressure away from them and just say, "Well, we have done the hard work. We talked to hundreds suppliers, we import fish, we know what's going on, we know what's truly hook and line and what's not. Here's our rating." And it's not perfect, but we have taken all the information we have and given you something that we think is reasonable for you to go out and make a decision on.

Richard:
I think that's brilliant. I think we did an episode probably about two months ago on a similar strand amount of sustainability meeting. There's a company called Day Rise, I think the company the name is... It's all products, so they obviously attract back that whole supply, whole supply line and all the different things that are used along that process. I think that's great. I think that's great. I would argue that's got to make a difference. Obviously, it's hard to necessarily track with all the different factors that have been going on well last year since you've implemented it, but I think that will become, if not already, more and more of shant I buy from these guys or these guys? Especially with fish.

Jeremy:
Yeah, definitely. And I think it ties into storytelling really well and it should become part of the storytelling because I think half of selling a piece of fish is saying where it's come from and why we bought this one and why it's actually sustainable and this was the fisherman who caught it and hey, you know what, this is a great way to cook it. Because another problem with our product is that people are a little bit nervous about wrecking up a 18 pound steak of turbot. It's a great experience but it can go wrong quite easily. So getting people comfortable with how to cook it is a big thing.

Richard:
Brilliant. Okay, so we're going to move on. Last few questions. So Black Friday obviously is literally on the doorstep as this episode goes live. Talk us through what's worked well over the years and also sort of what the focus is this year if anything at all?

Jeremy:
If anything at all. So we're doing something different this year to what we've done previously. Our previous setups for the last two or three years have been, we always run an offer in November all month long. And this is our pre-Christmas offer. And we've done this for the last 10 years, probably before Black Friday was big. And the idea there is we want to incentivize existing customers to get their Christmas orders in and delivered in November, pop it in the freezer to help operationally in December. So that runs all month long. And then in the previous couple of years we've culminated with a product specific sale in that black Friday period.

Richard:
The November thing is to try and shift the demand and bring it forward.

Jeremy:
Yeah, exactly. So we're trying to get as many customers Christmas orders done in November so that when we get to December we're always operationally stretched so we can start to pull some of that forward a little bit. And so we give them an offer. And in a way we're also saying, "Look, here's your offer. We're not really going to do this in December, so get your orders in now." And it tends to work quite well. But sure, we get to the end of the month and everyone's doing the Black Friday stuff. And previously we have done sales on products. So you may have 15, 20 different fish on a specific line discount. And we would then, as the sale rolls on as it gets longer and longer, then two days later, "Okay, we've dropped new lines," and "Okay," two days later we've dropped new lines. And I think that was good from a you clear out stock that you've overstocked in, or you've got-

Richard:
Yeah

Jeremy:
Yeah, and you've got a good... It means you can keep your communications going when your communications fresh because obviously there's a lot flying around in that period and you need something new to talk about, but this year we are going to do something different. The downside of doing it that way is that you've got a global voucher code discount and then you've got line discounts. And you compound the two discounts together and it actually erodes the margin you're going to make and how worth it really is it? And that's one thought. So this year we're going to basically do a tiered promotional code offer. So the baseline is going to be the offer that we've been running throughout November, then there'll be like a second tier and maybe a third tier. And it's just to incentivize AOV. And we will offer reasonably good discounts.
So I'm thinking, we've got to work this out, it's a 15% off everything at the moment and then that might step up to 20% or 25%, and then the next one may be up to 30$. But if you're going to be getting 30% off, we're going to be asking you to spend 150 pounds of more. And A, it might keep the sale a bit easier but cleaner. And B, it incentivizes AOV and we've got certain costs to ship one parcel to a person. So if we can get that AOV up, even the bigger discounts will work out better from a contribution margin perspective.

Richard:
No, I like that. 150 pound on fish for Christmas, you have a little bit left for your New Year's party and your New Year's fish pie.

Jeremy:
Our AOV at the moment is 75 quid. And so if you got Christmas coming up and you got a couple of events, hey you know could-

Richard:
I remember a story you told me, maybe I've probably got half of it, but a bit of a tangent. But you have a chap, you probably got a of people, but remember you telling me, this is probably about three years ago you told me this, or two years ago you told me this that yeah, Chap Scotland that orders two grands worth of, I can't remember what it was now. And it's like, It's not a hotel or anything, it's like personal.

Jeremy:
So he's still here and he still keeps going. And so no, Scotland is where he fishes for salmon in the summer. That's his Scotland house, but he's also got one down here. But I think he is a regular guy, he really likes fish, he's obviously done quite well in his life. And I think he has now broken the 100,000 pound mark spend on Phish with us.

Richard:
Wow. There is the headline for this episode, the 100,000 customer fish, the fish man. And it's a Fish. I thought I like prongs, but that's pushing it.

Jeremy:
No, he really enjoys his fish.

Richard:
Oh, that's brilliant. Well thanks, Jeremy. It's been absolute blast. I've got a couple of, well of three final questions to finish with. If you could give one bit of advice to the CEOs and aspiring CEOs that are listening, what would it be?

Jeremy:
I think similar to what you've said in this podcast and what we were maybe talking about earlier, which is the last couple of years have had a lot of peaks and troughs and you can feel like a hero when you're at the top and you can feel like you're losing super bad when you're at the bottom. And realistically, you've got to try and detach yourself a little bit from the highs and lows and as long as you're moving in the right direction, it's all good. So the piece of advice is just keep going and try and take a bit of a macro view because the highs and the lows at the moment have been higher and lower than they have been previously. And if you attach your personal performance always to the highs and the lows of the business, when there's macro factors, you might beat yourself up a bit too much, or think you're winning a bit too much.

Richard:
Jeremy, that is brilliant. Brilliant. So first of all time, next 12 months, what's in the pipeline for the Fish Society?

Jeremy:
Well, major growth, worldwide domination, all of that.

Richard:
As usual.

Jeremy:
All of that stuff. We're coming for you. But no, continued growth. Working on our attention to make the most out of our customers. But in terms of tangible things, you will see the ability to subscribe to Fish from us come through. So subscription is going to roll out next year and we're going to be doing a lot of new product differentiation. So we've just finished investing in a production kitchen where we will have full time chefs producing different meals. And that-

Richard:
You talked about that I think probably a year or so ago you said that was in the pipeline maybe a year and a half ago. I think we lasted a real chat sort of a bit.

Jeremy:
Yeah, yeah. It was in the pipeline and we finally did it. And that is opening up in about two weeks and it will really kick off from next year. But what's awesome about that is there's so much search data about what recipes people are interested in and if we can just create recipes based on that, it's going to be great.

Richard:
Recipe schema. My SEO hat comes straight on. SEO schema is a great one. We have a couple of clients who have a very, very, very large client that has tool 200 and something stores, food stores actually. And recipe schema. Great one. I've got another question that's just come to the top of my head. So subscription, I actually, during COVID subscribed to quite a lot of things I think a lot of people did, and still subscribe to the ones. And one of them was, I won't say any brand name on air if you like right now, but it was a coffee brand. And I open the coffee brand and your flyer was in there. This was probably two years ago now. So when you talk about subscription, obviously they're a subscription company and obviously you, you've partnered with that particular firm. I'm Sure many others have. How's that work, that sort of partnering piece?

Jeremy:
Yeah, so Well, full disclamation. came out. We've never actually been able to make it work on a consistent and scalable basis. Yeah, I wish we could sit here and say we could because it looks like the Holy Grail of cheap customer acquisition, but we haven't been able to. On that one. We did get some new customers from it and we actually were put together with a third party printer who got a bit in the market and said, "Wait a minute, I'm printing for all of these e-commerce customers who are sending to their own customers. Why don't I just put them in touch? I won't take a commission. But the deal is they have to print through me." And so we got put in touch with this guy who does that. And we've done it over the years with coffee companies, other food companies, this, that and the other.
And it's great. And I think there's other benefits other than just how many codes got used. For example, Richard, you got our flyer and it's exposure. We're looking at some partnerships for next year. I think we are just going to try and pick a... Not do as many at once and pick ones that we think we can put more time and effort into and closer integrate. So there'll be a lot more sort of website cohesion and we might have product selling on their websites and they might have it on ours. And then box inserts may just be one tactic within a wider partnership as opposed to just small tactics.

Richard:
Brilliant. Well, it has been a pleasure, Jeremy. Final, final, final, final question, book recommendation. I'll like to finish every episode with a book that you'd recommend to our listeners.

Jeremy:
Yes. And I'm not just saying this cause I like fish, but the book is called How to Eat the Big Fish and it's how challenger brands can compete against brand leaders. So if you're thinking about the Fish Society after this, this is the epitome of us trying to chase down the supermarkets and buying fish from the supermarkets. And if you're a small brand working in an established category, this is a cool book.

Richard:
How apt, how apt.

Jeremy:
That's brilliant. Well thanks Jeremy. So for the guys that want to find out more about the Fish Society, more about you, what's the best way to do that?
The fishsociety.co.uk. See you now.

Richard:
Brilliant. Well thanks for coming on the eCom@One show. I look forward to speaking to you again.

Jeremy:
Cheers, Richard.

Richard:
Cheers, Jeremy.

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