Q&A with Nick Holdsworth, Owner at Independence

We spoke to the owner of Independence, Nick Holdsworth on how they've built their business on family values and strategies that helped them achieve growth.

Abacus: Can you give a brief description of your company?

Nick Holdsworth: Started in 1985, Independence is a caring family firm, run by myself Nick and my wife Judy Holdsworth.

It was whilst working as an Occupational Therapist, in hospitals and in the community, that my wife Judy became aware of the many helpful products and gadgets that were simply not being made available through local authorities or the NHS.

Starting around the kitchen table and with my business experience, the idea of a catalogue of helpful living aids was born. Advertisements were placed in the People’s Friend and Yours magazine, and a local printer produced the catalogues.

Over time, the business grew and moved from the family home to new facilities at Lancaster Way (an old World War II runway). This enabled us to offer a wider range of products than previously, as well as a much-improved level of service.

Abacus: What challenges or needs did you face in your industry that led you to look for a solution like ours? 

Nick Holdsworth: Independence Ltd used to have a warehouse and supply equipment to health authorities, but over time with greater centralising of purchasing, and buying directly from manufacturers, this business model wasn’t sustainable.

 As an occupational therapist working in the community, Judy Holdsworth had identified that more people were living longer but were struggling to find the equipment to help them stay independent.  A retail catalogue of the existing stock and a few additional lines offered by existing suppliers was put together with a view to supplying mobility equipment directly to the end-user.

 We used to only acquire new audiences through off the page advertising, mainly through half page adverts in ‘Yours’ and ‘Peoples Friend’.  Initially, this was very effective and even profitable, and together with mailing our own housefile with a small A5 catalogue gave growth of around 15% per annum.  Off the page gradually became less effective, so much so that the adverts yielded few names and cost per acquisition was becoming higher and higher, reducing the growth rate and profitability at the same time.

Abacus: Describe your selection process and what criteria you were looking for. How did you go about searching for a solution?

Nick Holdsworth: Our housefile reflected the demographic of the media in which we advertised, namely ‘Yours’ and ‘Peoples Friend’, so we sought new names that fitted that profile, although reaching out to a different, more upmarket buyer was an ambition.

Abacus: Why did you choose Abacus over the competition?

We had tried lists swaps with other mail order companies with very mixed results.  As soon as we tested Abacus we saw far superior responses and consistent results.  Other list bureaus have never achieved the same degree of consistency.

Abacus: How has our solution helped since implementation?

 When we were introduced to Abacus in 2007, we tested 40K names.  The response was 3.5% with a very healthy ROI, so this was rolled out to 50K then 60K, all with responses over 3%.  This had the benefit not only of securing a new source of acquisition, but also greater print volumes for the catalogue, and hence improved economies of scale for our housefile mailings.

Growth in 2007 shot up by 43% and we almost instantly realised we had created a sustainable business model. Previously we didn’t really have much more than a small husband and wife business that was destined to trade from our annexe unless or until something better turned up!  

 Abacus: Can you share any metrics/KPIs that show the success you have enjoyed with our service?

Nick Holdsworth: We have now grown to the stage where we can justify the Abacus 360 solution.  This effectively pays for itself as the housefile now performs better. 

We are sending out 20% more catalogues to existing customers with overall contribution up by 50% (aided by the inclusion of inserts) as is contribution per customer.

Abacus: What would you tell others who might be considering Direct Mail? Would you recommend our solution to your peers?

We have found that direct mail, although initially expensive, is the most effective method to gain loyal customers with a higher AOV than alternative channels.  We would certainly recommend DM and defiantly recommend Epsilon Abacus as partners.