There is no doubt that the events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have affected each of our lives. The virus itself, the fear and uncertainty, and the precautionary measures taken have disrupted our businesses and every-day lives. With no precedent to look to, the weeks or months ahead will be challenging to navigate – especially for small businesses with a limited cash cushion. But despite the situation, there are things your small fashion business can do to create positive opportunities during this pandemic. Here are a few ideas to get you brainstorming.
Do some customer research
Many people are working from home, schooling from home, and self-quarantining to limit the virus spread. With this increased isolation comes a unique opportunity to engage with your customers during a time when we are all eager for conversation and social interaction. Many people have more time on their hands, too, as they aren’t commuting to the office and many outside activities and commitments are cancelled. Take this time to reach out and show genuine interest in your customers and the things they care about. Build connections and gain clarity about who it is that buys your brand. Research like this can be pivotal in what you design for next season and how you can best serve your customers.
Host an online event, workshop, or meet-up
Just because many stores are closed and large in-person gatherings have been banned, that doesn’t mean you have to stop hosting events. Move them online. Think of what type of activities and workshops you might host in your retail store or at a pop-up. How can you modify these for an interactive online format? You know all the extroverts among your customers are going to go stir-crazy being at home, so how can you create a memorable event that is on-brand? You may not see any bump in sales because of this, but think of other ways that this could benefit your business. Maybe it increases your newsletter sign-ups and allows you to stay connected with more people in your target audience who will turn into paying customers down the road.
Find alternate ways to help your customer
Your apparel sales may be down during this time, but are there other ways to help your customer that align with your brand and possibly supplement your income? If you are a modest clothing company, would a webinar about how to style common closet items into trendy, modest outfits be helpful to your customers? (They are likely going through their wardrobe while doing closet cleanouts, anyway.) If you are an activewear brand, perhaps create and share an at-home friendly workout video (or do one live). If you are a brand focused on classic, vintage silhouettes, what about creating a classic movie marathon guide complete with tips on how to recreate the iconic silver-screen looks with pieces from your collection? The possibilities are endless. Find alternate ways to help your customers and meet their needs during this time. They will remember, and you will be building up your brand for future growth and sales.
Show and share your brand’s values
There are many ways your business can help out during this crisis. You can donate a percentage of sales to a relief organization of your choice. If a monetary donation is out of your reach, you can still highlight organizations you care about – providing resources and contact info to your customers. Use this as an opportunity not just to do some good but to share your brand’s values. Does your brand have a heart for children? Partner with an organization that provides school children lunches even while they are home. Does your brand value transparency? Pay your retail staff even during store closures and let your customers know that you are doing it. Does your brand care about the homeless population? Donate to or highlight a local shelter or food bank. Sharing your brand’s values allows your customers to see your mission and allows you to connect with them over something you both care about. Your customers may find they have values in common and will feel good about purchasing from a brand that aligns with those values.
Take a second look at your supply chain
You are likely experiencing delays and hiccups in your supply chain as factories, travel, and material production are impacted by Coronavirus across the globe. Take this opportunity to review your supply chain and identify the high-risk areas. Are there places your supply chain could be more efficient? Where are the bottlenecks? How can these areas be smoothed out or staggered? Do you need to consider back-up or contingency plans? With the downtime your business has, use it to take a step back from day-to-day operations and do some big-picture planning. Research some new options that may improve your supply chain going forward. This pandemic shows us just how much everything (and everyone) is connected – for better and for worse.
Consider a change
Is there something this crisis has brought to light that could be an opportunity for your business? Maybe you were considering pivoting your business or launching a new category anyway. This lull may be the perfect time to start making those changes. There is less pressure to put out product now as everyone is in the same boat experiencing delayed product, slow sales, and uncertain times. The advantage small businesses have during this time is that we can pivot and make change happen much quicker than a large corporation. Take advantage of this nimbleness to try out something new both for now and for when this pandemic is over!
In what ways is your small fashion business being inventive during this tough situation? What bright spots and opportunities do you see? I’d love to hear how your brand is adapting. Let’s do this together, and come out on the other side as stronger people and stronger businesses.