Get Maine Lobster’s Online Business Is Spiking During A Pandemic – Forbes

While most retail stores have seen revenues plummet during the pandemic, business at Get Maine Lobster, which ships lobsters and other fish to consumers, is spiking. Bored, isolated, and frustrated, consumers need a spark in their life. Why not order a lobster? Or fresh scallops from Maine? 

In fact, Get Maine Lobster, which is headquartered in Portland, Maine, saw a 1000% year-end sales growth, when it shipped 3,000 products weekly.

With people staying home, online sales for lobsters to break the monotony have skyrocketed while sales to restaurants dipped.

CEO Mark Murrell acquired Get Maine Lobster in 2019. Previously its business was 75% wholesale selling to restaurants and 25% retail to individual customers online and by telephone.

But post-Covid-19 struck, it has morphed into 99% online revenue, with just slight wholesale sales to restaurants. Most eateries were closed due to lockdowns.

Murrell, who is 47-years-old, attributed the spike in online and telephone sales to customers during the pandemic wanting desperately “to feel normal. And wanting to do something unique like having Maine lobster delivered to your doorstep.”

Seeing the rise in sales, Murrell also said he adapted and intensified email marketing and social media updates, which “increased the velocity.”

It also stepped up hiring, relying mostly on friends for recommendations, to recruit “pickers, packers and baggers,” Murrell said.

“Because the online is doing so well, we will likely do some major pruning of our wholesale business because we want to focus on this part of the business,” said Murrell.

In 2019, Get Maine Lobster acquired Union Wharf in Portland, ME, as their major shipping facility. And that site also sells to locals and Portland’s bustling tourist trade that flourished before the pandemic struck.

It also offers a variety of products, not just lobster. While lobster tails are a perennial favorite, it also sells local halibut, scallops, tuna, and beef wellington in gourmet packages.

A minimum shipping order requires buying two live lobsters about a pound and a half each, which costs about $85, though much of those fees entail shipping.  The average order goes for $190.

Murrell says that its target customers tend to be affluent, 55-years-and older, and about 54% women, because females tend to make the financial decisions.

About 78% of people ordering over the last two months, when the pandemic struck, are new customers. To encourage repeat buying, they’re offered discounts and incentives.

“The lifetime value of a customer is $337,” he said, so many will likely re-order.

Its fish business is Maine-centric. Lobsters are acquired from fisherman based in Stonington and Jonesport, Maine, and Cisco Bay in summers.

Much of its marketing stems from ongoing Facebook, Instagram, and Google ads, radio ads, and campaigns with iHeart, as well as friends recommending it to friends.

In fact, this reporter encountered two pop-up ads from Get Maine Lobster at two news sites, while writing this column.

After one of its competitors Luke’s Lobster established considerable success with spawning retail stores beyond Maine, Murrell is exploring following that trail.  “I don’t think a lot of restaurants will survive the new guidelines,” he said, so the opportunity is there.

Murrell is currently raising capital and meeting with angel investors and larger companies like Johnson & & Johnson, which offers small business support, to explore opening a local Get Maine Lobster outpost in summer.

It also sells locally to its Portland neighbors, who must call ahead and pay by credit card to ensure the safety of its employees. Showing how much shipping costs, locals pay $18 for the two Maine lobsters, a $67 savings on online ordering.

“Our business is now about 98% online sales and 2% wholesale,” he said. Even though some restaurants are beginning to ramp up, he now requires that they pick up the lobsters from the Portland headquarters, rather than exert the manpower to have the lobsters delivered to them.

He expects that the 98% online sales will prevail even after any new normalcy returns. “It may go to 95%, but not change a whole lot,” he acknowledges.



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