Caption: Hardeep Sandhu, Enterprise Coach Team Leader / Programme Manager at Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, and Gemma Diper, owner of The Cakery

A cake shop in Leamington has seen its sales rise perfectly despite the coronavirus pandemic — and it’s thanks to an increase in online orders.

Trade at The Cakery on Regent Grove in the town centre fell away significantly at the start of both lockdowns, but when the first set of restrictions hit in March owner Gemma Diper, who previously worked in TV, decided on a digital re-tune to help the business that’s been in her family for 30 years survive.

Mum-of-two Gemma took over the well-established business, started by her mum in 1982, in 2011 and now has a team of seven staff.

The bakery had a website, and pages on both Facebook and Instagram, but like many independent businesses Gemma admitted she did not pay enough attention to its online presence.

And it was at a series of free digital workshops delivered by Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Stories Marketing, on behalf of Warwickshire County Council through the Warwickshire Towns Network Programme that she refreshed her e-knowledge and picked up some tips on how to grow her following and online sales.

The online workshops share insights into how businesses can use social media and other digital tools to drive traffic to their website.

Gemma said: “When lockdown came, I had more time to think about social media and an online shop. I knew what I needed to do, but going to the workshops made me realise that I had to put proper resources into it and it’s paid off, especially when I look at the amount of trade I’d done online over the summer. It was income that I just wouldn’t have had.

““There’s no doubt some of those new customers are solely because of having an online shop and driving people there through the social media pages.

“Now I’m regularly delivering to the local universities, and getting orders from people who want to send cakes as a gift to others — that’s probably also as a result of not being able to see family and friends because of the restrictions. We’re posting out all over the country and even have had a few international orders.

“I have been able to open for this lockdown for takeaway and for online order collections, so the online shop has been essential for that too. We may well have struggled to keep going without it.

“I sell cakes so it’s quite easy to come up with attractive posts, but Sam and Emma, from Stories Marketing who delivered the workshops taught me, it’s all about interacting with followers rather just posting a nice picture!

“Being online and on social media is essential, not only in the current climate but also because that’s where the potential customers are, and I’m really seeing the benefit. I’ve got my sister running the social media side now, so it’s become part of what we do day-to-day.”

Keely Hancox, of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “What the digital workshops have shown is that many businesses have an online presence but, because they are so busy, they tend not to use them to the maximum.

“What The Cakery has shown is just how much you can get in return if you apply some fairly simple tips and start to build a following. It’s great to see the success it has brought the business.”

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council and portfolio holder for economic development, said: “It’s so encouraging to hear of businesses that are adapting so quickly during the pandemic. We were delighted to be involved in the scheme and set aside funding in our recovery plan to support online and digital training, particularly for the retail market. Small businesses are integral to the local economy and this training will stand them in good stead not only during the pandemic but also in the future.”