The first impact that Hatton’s Model Railways saw when the UK voted to leave the EU was that sales went up, says its managing director Richard Davies.
The retailer, founded in 1946 by Norman Hatton, sells model railways to customers in the UK and, increasingly, around the world. Davies and his father first met Hatton’s as customers and when in 1999, as a computer science student, he found himself living on the same road as the company and was sent in by his father to make purchases. He suggested it needed a website – and for years he built and ran that website on a commission basis, working with Norman Hatton’s son Keith and daughter Christine. Keith died in 2008 and Davies bought the business.
Davies built the retailer’s website himself, but by 2017 it was using paper-based systems to handle 1,500 orders a day. That was unsustainable and Davies brought in third-party software to run both the warehouse and the checkout. Today Hattons turns over about £20m a year, and employs 67 people from its Cheshire base. It uses PeopleVox software to run its warehouse, and GFS software for its checkout, giving it support in areas from payments to customs tariffs. Currently about 10% of Hattons online sales are delivered overseas, but in summer 2016 there was a spike in international sales.
“We actually discovered as soon as we voted leave that we saw a big surge in revenue because the pound dipped and that meant people abroad were getting a lot more value for their money,” says Davies, speaking to InternetRetailing at IRX 2019. “Model railways customers are extremely shrewd, so we saw a big spike in sales in July and August 2016. Since then I think we’ve been affected by the same uncertainty that exists around Brexit, but our customers are quite a passionate and steady bunch in terms of products being released. When a product is announced their question might be about when it is being released, not necessarily how much it will cost.”
In the run-up to Brexit, the retailer saw some of its smaller suppliers in Poland and Germany suspend shipments to in the run-up to March 29 as they became jittery about…