The core business of Rhiannon Cyf is the design and manufacture, in-house, of premium branded jewellery.
- Broadband enables businesses located in remote areas to compete better and to maximise their geographical reach.
- Digital technologies can help businesses to access software via the cloud that addresses multiple business processes.
- A concern with investing in digital technologies for more remotely based businesses in Wales is the difficulty finding the skills and expertise required locally to implement the technology.
- Businesses may benefit from Welsh Government adopting a different approach to providing training, giving businesses more flexibility in choosing the skills provider and course.
Overview of the business
The business employs a team of around fifteen, although this fluctuates with some seasonal work.
Most of the workers are based in the relatively small market town of Tregaron, making it a very important local employer. It operates a large retail centre with art gallery, craft gallery, jewellery gallery with viewing workshops, museum of Celtic Art Antiquities and cafe located in Tregaron. It also has a separate jewellery-only shop in Aberystwyth.
Established since 1971, the jewellery in silver, 9ct and 18ct regular gold and Rhiannon Welsh Gold sells nationally and internationally, with well over half of customers and turnover coming from beyond Wales. Its products are either entirely handmade or hand finished, and all designs of their genuine Welsh products are unique.
Alongside a diverse retail customer base the business also has corporate clients such as the National Eisteddfod, Welsh Government and others. Special commission work is carried out for both corporate and private clients.
Superfast broadband adoption
The business adopted superfast broadband in April 2016 and reports typical download speeds of around 45 Mbps and upload speeds of around 15 Mbps. Its broadband is provided by Datakom, a specialist telecoms provider, with a monthly fee of £250, including telephone system.
Rhiannon Cyf recognise the importance of broadband to the future success of their business, given their remote location. They were early adopters once broadband became available in their area. Prior to adoption, the business faced significant connectivity challenges and poor broadband speeds.
IT skills capacity
While the business does not employ dedicated IT staff, they are able to draw on the basic skills of a number of team members. To this end, it only draws on external IT skills when appropriate.
The business manager noted that a particular concern with investing in digital technologies for more remote/ rural based companies was that it was very difficult to find the skills and expertise required locally to implement the technology. Technology that was well implemented, worked well and wasn't going to break down was seen as much harder to achieve in rural areas than people might think.
Wales Government was praised by the company for pushing hard with superfast broadband rollout and for providing grants for some businesses to enable broadband fibre to the premises. However, it was felt that the Government could do more to facilitate the growth of businesses providing good quality technical support, and installation support, for businesses in rural areas.
The business believed that the Welsh Government could improve skills training in Wales by changing its approach:
Use of digital technologies
Since adopting superfast broadband, the business has introduced a range of digital technologies across its business processes. This has helped to digitise information flows in many aspects of its business (download the information flow diagram for more details). As a shop-based retailer, face-to-face contact is still important at the customer interface.
In adopting digital technologies, the manager noted:
Since going onto superfast broadband, the business has introduced Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) telephones, leading to seamless connection between the business locations in Tregaron and Aberystwyth, and making it easier to work from home if required.
Rhiannon Cyf has an Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) based customer relationship management (CRM) system that helps it to manage enquiry and order data, and information flow. Deliveries are tracked electronically, providing a service for clients to estimate arrival times. The business can also make use of this data, and is able to book orders online and consolidate accounts at the end of the day electronically.
The business’ website is maintained in-house, making use of Google Analytics for monitoring purposes. It estimates that up to 10% of its sales are accounted for by website orders. Other digital technologies adopted include Adobe Creative Cloud. This is used for marketing purposes, including the production of a regular promotional brochure. Dropbox is used to save and back-up management and marketing documentation. The business does not believe that it could make the same use of these technologies without superfast broadband.
Interaction with key suppliers is also undertaken digitally, via email, enabling exact records of order requests to be kept. Indeed, with key suppliers it was noted that they would only call by telephone if there were an issue.
Rhiannon Cyf view superfast broadband as being extremely important to business growth and the overall strategic objectives of the business. While recognising that it is likely to take some time before it can fully recoup the benefits of superfast broadband, the business believes the opportunity to make better use of digital technologies, and implement things that could not have been done before, has created many benefits:
The business plan, in the longer term, is to streamline further its business processes by integrating the various websites with its EPOS system. The EPOS system itself will need to be better linked into other software used by the business. Rhiannon Cyf also believes that there will be increased demand for faster broadband speeds in the future as people and businesses exploit its potential to the maximum. The business has ambitions to invest further in the existing centre, adding a delicatessen, and potentially opening more locations nationally.