Ackroyd’s Scottish Bakery in Redford, Michigan is a third-generation family business that makes traditional and modern UK and Scottish meats, sweets and savories, and also imports groceries, candies and gifts from across the pond. Having been around for 71 years, nobody would blame the bakery for simply sticking to what’s made it successful – but that isn’t the case.
Earlier this summer, Ackroyd’s announced that it would be closing its retail bakery in metro Detroit. That's not cause for alarm, though, as sales are up. In recent years, the bakery has transitioned to online ordering, shipping its products to all 50 states. That has allowed the bakery to not only survive the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but actually thrive. For the time period of March 1 to July 31, 2020, revenue is up more than 150% from the same period last year.
While some of that revenue can be attributed to not running events and pop-ups in the spring and summer, which generally incur more cost than profit (the goal of the events/pop-ups is brand awareness and experiential), the main reason is being able to get its made-from-scratch products to consumers across the nation.
Ackroyd’s has spent over a decade honing its systems for packing and shipping, with the goal of growing its national brand and business through direct-to-consumer sales. Megan Ackroyd, president of Ackroyd’s Scottish Bakery, discusses the shifting business model and its advantages.
Bake: What led to the decision to close the retail store permanently and focus solely on shipping?
We have been looking to restructure our retail business for some time. Our real shift to e-commerce began in 2018 – we saw first-hand the change in consumer purchasing behavior, as the bakery’s online sales were increasing year-after-year. Then the pandemic forced our hand.
How has your online ordering system improved?
We no longer allow pre-orders. We’ve implemented a system of real-time inventory control, which is better for our customers and allows them to order exactly what is available when it’s available. And it’s better for business. We experience faster order fulfillment, less product loss, and a decrease in other customer service-related matters. Real-time inventory control, combined with our strategic model of 1- to 3- day shipping, ensures that when customers place their order, they will receive the items they ordered, and in just a few days.
What advice would you give for a bakery looking to make this transition?
First, consider the type of product you make – that’s the driving factor behind shipping and delivery success. Can your product arrive after a day or two of shipping, and still taste and look the way you want? Second, your website is your storefront, so it must customer-friendly AND work for you on the back end. A successful e-commerce site is not something that can be quickly thrown together.