3+ Independent Businesses Having Challenging Moments During COVID-19 And You Can Help Them

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“In Europe and the US, more than 65% of consumers expect to decrease their spending on apparel,” claims The State of Fashion 2020 Coronavirus Update, a report by The Business of Fashion and management consultant, McKinsey.

Long have we questioned the nature of consumerism and the rate at which the fashion industry moves. But now it’s facing an enforced intermission with an indeterminate and hazy restart point.

Pop-up shops, workshops, new collections, months of planning have come to a halt. Each and every fashion company or brand is having to adjust how they run their businesses and in light of this pandemic, the majority face inevitable hardship.

Charlotte Beecham, founder of luxury label, Charlotte Simone, says that her biggest challenge has been the day to day running of a business. Even with a small team, “It’s challenging to execute day to day tasks on Zoom, and it has meant a lot more talking but less doing.”

At the start of 2019, The Federation of Small Businesses registered 5.8 million businesses. Covid-19 will have imprinted on them all in a variety of ways. “Retail was already an extremely tough business, but we fear the effects of the virus may have weakened the industry more than before,” says Beecham.

Isabella Weatherby, founder of responsibly made clothing company, Peachy Den, was due to expand her one person team and move into her first studio. But these plans have been put on hold since lockdown was enforced. “The need to adapt during these unprecedented times has been incredibly important. I have had to find imaginative and new ways to connect with customers.”

The BoF/McKinsey report also said, “Almost overnight, the global fashion industry’s reliance on digital channels has accelerated faster than anyone could have anticipated prior to the crisis.” BBC News reported that retail giant Primark will be missing out on around £650 million revenue during each month of shutdown. With no online website, the high-street retailer now seems incredibly outdated in its business model.

Hearing from independent brands, one common thread for keeping afloat is the need for an online presence. Whether this be for transactions or staying connected with their customer base. Jeweller, Lucy Parker has noticed a slight increase in online sales. “I have stock which I am able to continue selling and have been working on bespoke projects.”

The Peachy Den summer collection has just launched and is consists of three products. The collection is being sold exclusively online, and Weatherby says, “We are still up and running, our production has not been hugely affected…our manufacturer in London has been able to continue working with the necessary precautions.” Still able to operate, sending out orders from home – and 10% of all Peachy Den sales are going to charity.

Some solace in being a small business right now means responsibility for fewer staff and perhaps being more acclimatised to working from home. With easier access to stock there is scope to be more adaptable. This is something more challenging for the larger retail companies and their production lines.

“I think people have been more inclined to shop at independents and treat themselves,” says Parker. The idea of shopping to treat yourself has also been felt by jeweller Sadie Hawker, of Shh By Sadie. She found that online sales initially decreased. This was not a huge surprise, as at this time of year she expects most of her sales to be to holiday and festival goers.

However, after creating an online craft club on Instagram @shhbysadie and selling DIY jewellery kits, “Sales began to pick up again, people were treating themselves to something pretty to cheer themselves up. I feel so honoured to be able to send a little parcel of happiness to them,” Hawker says.

There are so many online options when choosing to buy something, the glaringly obvious one being Amazon, a default for many. But it is important to consider that each purchase from an independent business sends a message and gesture of support. And a purchase has immediate and direct impact that does not go unnoticed and most definitely is not taken for granted.

Parker says, “I’ve had a number of customers saying that they were specifically supporting small businesses at this time – which is amazing.”

This is something all four designers mentioned, Beecham says, “Some loyal customers bought gift cards because they understand how incredibly challenging this time is for small businesses.” When faced with hardship, signs of support and compassion are abundant.

There is a refreshing and encouraging sentiment of optimism between the business owners and equally an appreciation for time. “I have been able to gauge for myself more of a sense of direction, thinking about ways I could make more goals become possible,” says Parker.

It is positive to see that people haven’t stopped shopping completely and a sense of support and community has been born around independent businesses. “Through this whole experience I realised that my jewellery makes people feel happy, that is a wonderful feeling,” says Hawker.

‘”I think everyone should applaud their mental strength during this incredibly challenging time, I know I am marvelling at mine,” says Beecham.

…and we are marvelling back.

@charlottesimone      @peachyden      @lucyparkerjewellery    @sshbysadie

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