Pivoting in a pandemic: How GH Display is rebuilding a thriving business
The challenge: A clunky, outdated website hampered business growth
Since 1976, family-owned business GH Display have supplied exhibition stands to events across the UK. But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, nearly all of their work disappeared overnight.
With the exhibition industry in limbo, directors Jenny and John Hodson realised they needed to adapt quickly to save their business. So GH Display began making coffins, acrylic screens, and other products unexpectedly in demand.
“The pandemic created a unique situation where suddenly all these things are needed that none of us even knew of before, like sanitiser stands and vaccination pods,” Jenny says. “Responding to these new needs created an opportunity for our business to survive.”
Yet as GH Display’s range expanded from 100 products to nearly 800, the limitations of their existing website grew too.
“Our website is critical as it’s the only way we can sell our products. But it was a bit clunky, admin-wise. Adding new products was a very long process. And it was quite long-winded to purchase things, which can put off buyers.”
Building a more efficient, user-friendly website would help GH Display continue to respond quickly to changing market demands, and to grow. But the pandemic’s impact meant they didn’t have the financial reserves to invest upfront in a new website.
The solution: Expert support to access funding towards a new website, apprentices and equipment
When Jenny contacted Growth Works in September 2021, “they couldn’t have been nicer, or more helpful.”
“Maxine helped shape our business plan to make sure we were thinking about the right things,” Jenny recalls. “I thought it had the information needed, and then she’d come back and say, ‘actually, you probably need to expand on this. This is a unique selling point of your business.”
GH Display were awarded £12,500 in 50% matched funding to build the new website they desperately needed.
“The grant allowed us to do something we simply wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. At a point where we’re worrying about covering our overheads, there’s no way we would have invested £25,000 in a website, even though we needed it to grow. The Growth Works scheme made that a simpler decision.”
Jenny and her team have also applied for a grant towards buying a new CNC machine, used to cut acrylic screens and other products. And they are awaiting the outcome of a grant application to help them recruit apprentice stand builders.
“We’ve tried to go down the apprenticeship route in the past, but we found it very bureaucratic and difficult. We never ticked the right boxes before, but now, Growth Works is going to help us create apprenticeships for two trainee stand builders.”
The outcome: A sleek new website, staff recruitment, and renewed confidence for the future
After such a bumpy couple of years, GH Display enjoyed their busiest months ever in autumn 2021. Their new website, which went live in January 2022, helps them manage product listings and orders more efficiently, enabling further business growth.
Being set up to supply a range of products and markets puts GH Display in a stronger position to ride out the uncertainty around the return of exhibitions. Jenny and John have recently hired a new print manager, and are planning to expand their team further.
“As sad as it is that the exhibition industry has shrunk so much, that will bring opportunity for those companies that do survive. And we’re hoping that the Growth Works grant allows us to be at the front, tapping into that opportunity as exhibitions come back.”
Alongside the practical and financial support received, Jenny and her team feel spurred on by the confidence Growth Works shows in GH Display’s resilience and potential.
“Our team has been through so much in the last two years. And the grant scheme supporting us feels like other people outside of our company have confidence we can survive this, and grow. Growth Works doesn’t feel like a handout. It feels like somebody is investing in us because we are worth investing in, and I can’t emphasise enough how positive that feels. It’s pretty priceless.”
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