Pivoting to survive the pandemic

Posted on by Guy Cookson

What do you do when your world turns upside down? How do you react when every assumption you have made and every plan you have laid goes up in smoke?

This was the challenge facing so many small businesses when the pandemic hit.

One such company, Ministry of Supply, was hit harder than most as they specialised in making office apparel.

Founded in 2012 by two MIT graduates, Gihan Amarasiriwardena and Aman Advani, Ministry of Supply built a loyal customer following through an innovative approach to clothing design, making use of materials developed by NASA to create formal shirts and suits that were as comfy and practical as gym gear.

By 2019, after years of double digit growth, Ministry of Supply made over £10 million in sales online and through its six stores.

It looked like 2020 was going to be the year when the brand went big time.

And then came the pandemic lockdown. Customers working from home no longer needed office wear. The company’s entire product line and stores became instantly redundant.

So what to do?

At first Ministry of Supply assumed things would get better sooner rather than later, and they tried to brave things out. Staff were put onto side projects or placed on the equivalent of furlough, while deals were struck with the shop landlords.

The company also started to make masks to bring in much needed cash.

But with the crisis showing no sign of abating by the summer of 2020, the co-founders decided to pivot around the idea that perhaps people would be working remotely, at least some of the time, even after the pandemic was over.

And so Ministry of Supply created a new product line-up.

Fabric intended for blazers was instead used for joggers. Products already in production were altered to be more comfortable.

Every item on the website was rephotographed and every description rewritten to appeal to those working in a more casual environment than that of an office.

Sales are down on 2019, but the company has survived – and now has a fighting chance of thriving in a post-pandemic world.


A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column by Guy Cookson on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette, Lancashire Post and other titles. See our brand, web design and marketing recent projects.

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