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Corona Impact Update – Things Are Improving Fast!

First and foremost thank you so much to everyone for your orders, patience when needed and friendship throughout this most unusual of times. All at Empress hope that you, your friends and family have stayed safe and well.

We work in an absolute diamond of an industry where our community of customers are interested and care about us and the Empress business. Many of our customers are friends and we build some smashing relationships through meeting with you at shows and other events. With this in mind and having received lots of enquiries about our (and the businesses) general wellbeing I thought I would share the below with you on the goings-on at Empress over the past few months.

Things Got Busy!

‘Things got busy’… an understatement! We are delighted that the Empress offering has proved attractive to so many throughout the past few months. That and the obvious rise in demand from a world enjoying home hobbies saw demand rise much faster than we ever expected and we are so grateful.

While we are pleased to have served many happy customers, as I mentioned in a previous update, we also totally ‘take on the chin’ that in a relatively small number of cases there have been understandable frustrations when we have slipped during the crisis for this we extend our deep and sincere apologies.

To all customers and particularly those where things did slip we hope to demonstrate to you that we are working super hard, are improving fast and will be better than ever…

LOTS of Improvements!

Empress Team Numbers Are Up…

We have added eight new team members in the past few months. In comparison to some companies I know that seems low but, for a small family company, it feels huge! These new recruits are already part of the Empress family – yes Mum is mothering them and most already have their own Empress dedicated nicknames!

They are working wonders and helping across the business from cutting your orders to packing, answering enquiries and more.

I have been asked a few times over the past few months why we haven’t ‘just hired temps’ – the long and short of it is we care too much about our colleagues AND too much about the service we provide.

I know temporary staff seem like an easy way out of a predicament but I absolutely assure you we have tried temps in the past and it doesn’t help. There is a degree of skill (and lots of care) to finding the correct fabric, cutting, folding and packing. Also receiving deliveries checking and manifesting them away on the Empress shelves and more.

Remember we are not Amazon – we are a dedicated family company but realistically this means despite our best efforts we don’t have all the systems we want (yet) for tracking stock, product locations and more. This means that when we hire someone new they need training, mentoring and a whole lot of effort. All of which we are quite happy to provide but what we cannot make more of is time which is the key ingredient to bringing a recruit up to speed.

We have refined our ‘training’ processes over the past couple of months and improved them more than we have in the past couple of years. This effort has resulted in us being genuinely thrilled to have been able to welcome and integrate eight new team members who fit well in the Empress family and who truly care about the orders they are working with and crucially the happiness of the customers who will ultimately receive the parcel… YOU!

Secondly, to the actual job itself, the issue with Temporary Staff is that they are exactly that – Temporary. Empress is a family and the transient nature of a temporary team is not, in our opinion, a nice feeling. You will find no ‘zero hour’ contracts at Empress – we like to think that when someone joins our team that they are here for the long haul, that way we get to know each other, learn to work well as a team and as a company know we can invest time and effort in ensuring our team know the business and products inside and out with the ultimate aim of ensuring you receive the very best service each and every time you contact us.

As every new team member will attest one of our interview questions is ‘are you looking for a long term position’ – all the new recruits answered yes!

It Is All About People…

Our extra team members are helping us serve the increased demand for our services and it is the effect of this increased Empress team that allows me to report the following improvements…

Shipping Times Are Coming Down…

They have been steadily decreasing for the past few weeks. We tend to give a time range for shipping for reasons explained in more detail on our shipping page here.

Telephone Lines Are Back…

Calls will be being answered ‘live’ by the Empress team from Tuesday onward. Times will be 10am – 4pm.

We have hated not taking ‘live’ calls – by that I mean you have been able to leave a message for us to call back but we haven’t actually been answering the call at the point of you making it. It has been the only time Empress has not taken calls since the 1920s – not even the war stopped us from answering the lines. However, with the reduced team & crucially the need for social distancing in the office, we simply did not have enough people (or room) to answer the phones as well as pick and pack orders.

To ‘fix’ this problem we have just finished building a new office which can comfortably seat our (expanded) customer service team. Lead my the marvelous Jennifer (who many of you will know from the textile shows) the team will once again be taking your calls and questions from the 25th Aug.

Telephone line opening hours will be:
10am – 4pm Monday – Friday and 10.30am – 3.30pm on Saturday.

Where possible we still encourage you to Please Email in the first instance where possible. This will allow us to get back to you in ‘unsociable’ hours rather than being limited to a daytime response.

Backorders Are Shipping…

They now have a dedicated champion in Sheila (or as I now call her… the Backorders Queen).

We have always tried to keep backorders to a minimum by keeping high stock levels (if 99% of items are not on our shelves we are not happy – furthermore if they are not on our shelves in quantity then we are still not happy!).

Frustratingly, however, during the past months ‘supply chains’ have been stretched to breaking point & things we never thought we would run out of have been unavailable. We have worked all our contacts to keep as many items in stock – whether it was flying in fabrics suitable for scrubs from suppliers in Europe and further afield or tracking down a new supplier of elastic in Turkey we have truly done our best to keep supplies flowing particularly for items needed the very most.

We are truly sorry when we have fallen short on items that should have been in stock and shipped to you sooner. We have tried to update the website but it has lagged with certain info due to the uncertainly of deliveries. This is truly not an excuse, I don’t mean that the info above makes the ‘lag’ OK, I just mean to explain the situation as it is our belief you deserve that info.

Over the past couple of weeks in particular we have at last seen some long out of stock items arrive and we have been busy despatching these to anyone waiting. Sheila is coordinating the effort and will be making sure further out of stock items are chased, new suppliers found where necessary and that anyone affected is updated as soon as possible.

More Ranges, More Stock…

With increased team members we are racing back to the heart of what Empress loves. Providing you with great Fabrics & Haberdashery, fab Offers & Treats and of course super Service. We have more of everything on the way and hopefully the time to get all these textile tasties on the website for you to enjoy!

Service Levels & Summary…

Most of all and to summarise I am pleased to report we are steaming quickly back to our pre-Covid service levels. While most of our super customers won’t have felt much of an impact (apart from some shipping delays) we are well aware that some of you have and if 100% of people are not happy then neither are we!

BUT with shipping times dropping, enquiries being answered quicker, stock levels on the rise, phones being answered and much more we hope Full Empress Service is very nearly back!

I haven’t covered everything above but I hope I have given you a taste of the fact we are working our proverbial socks off to provide you with the very best service, selection & experience. From more staff to more cutting tables, packing areas, offices and ranges we really do just want to please you and furthermore say how much you are appreciated as a member of the Empress family.

There will no doubt be a few bumps along the way and we thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts for sticking with us and coming along for the ride!

Your custom and friendship are valued more than you will ever know.

Best Wishes as always,

Christine, Charles and The Empress Team

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