As a result of the Covid-19 crisis, Rituals has had to (temporarily) completely change its plans for the future. The company is investing heavily in digitisation and personalisation and hopes to benefit once the crisis is over.
Rituals was founded twenty years ago by, now 56-year-old, Raymond Cloosterman, who gained twelve years of experience at Unilever preceding establishing Rituals. The year 2020 was supposed to be a year of celebration, but the coronavirus altered those plans. “Few people can imagine how overwhelming the immediate impact was: all eight hundred stores were suddenly closed. We had eight thousand employees waiting in the wings, in despair. Not a single euros got cashed, but 25 million euros worth of invoices did come in every month. For an entrepreneur, it doesn’t get much scarier,” says Cloosterman to Belgian newspaper De Tijd.
When the crisis hit, he immediately assumed a worst-case scenario in which stores would remain closed for months. Rituals planned to open a hundred new stores this year, but that got immediately put aside. Other investment projects totalling ninety million euros also got suspended immediately.
“We have saved massively, but we have also drawn up new business models. We have increased the capacity of our robotised distribution centre from twenty thousand to thirty thousand parcels a day. In just one week, we developed software that sends orders from our webshop directly to our stores, so that they also can assemble e-commerce parcels. We also developed a system which allows people to order products when queueing outside the shop.”
Rituals is investing heavily in digitisation and personalisation during the crisis, hoping to be in a better position when it is over. “Pre-Covid, cosmetics was one of the products that sold the least online. We have twenty per cent of digital turnover, which is a lot in our industry. We are on the way to becoming a beauty tech company”.
House of Rituals
In October, the retailer opened its first flagship store in Amsterdam. The so-called “House of Rituals” is a four-storey experience store selling hundreds of products that would otherwise only be available online. There is a restaurant on-site, and there will be yoga sessions and meditation training. If the concept proves to be successful, several similar stores will follow in Belgium and other countries.
“We take this new experience and attention to personalisation to our online platform. Soon, you will be able to put together products in our webshop, after which we will send customers their personalised perfume and shampoo. In a second stage, we will connect our eight hundred stores, so that customers can order products in-store via a screen,” says Cloosterman.
The Covid-19 crisis only somewhat delayed the launch of House of Rituals. “Now is the time to invest. If the tide turns in two years, you will be able to make the most of what you did during the crisis,” concludes the entrepreneur.