Last Thursday’s Zoom meeting of more than 40 DLS member stores was a positive indication of specialty store stamina and survival. Those stores already reopened for a number of weeks (especially Southern stores) are doing business; those with physical stores not yet open have found new ways to sell via websites, social media, curated boxes (delivered and picked up at no charge; for merchants who do it right, customers are taking at least half of the offerings), FaceTime, Zoom, video chats, and more. Those stores that did not do e-commerce prior to the pandemic are quickly learning how.
A few conversation points and suggestions from this DLS meeting:
**Let your customers know you’re open, be it fully or partially (by appointment, curbside), and that you’ve got tons of beautiful product. Shout it on social media with great photos (outfit of the day, just-in), on your storefront with big signs, on personal phone calls, by emailing DLS-produced electronic flip books. Let customers know the safety measures you’ve taken: masks, gloves, sanitizers, temperature-taking, etc.
**Fabric masks have become a hot item and a whole new business opportunity: merchants are not only selling them in-store and online (logos masks, shirting fabrics, matching bowties) but are also approaching corporations to purchase stylish fabric masks for their employees.
**Most DLS stores have brought back most of their full-time workers, albeit sometimes with adjusted compensation packages. All are now hoping the Senate will sign a bill just passed by the House for 24 weeks of PPP.
**Virtually all DLS stores are finally building websites for e-commerce, with a goal not to compete with the big e-commerce sites but rather to customize and localize assortments to fit their communities. DLS estimates that e-commerce should ultimately represent 10-30 percent of store volume.
**Some DLS stores are partnering with Google, targeting their local area with organic content. (Belair in Omaha has been using the Google platform for years: it’s their number one vehicle for driving new customers to their website and store. They picked up a lot of wedding business from formalwear stores that were shut down!)
**DLS is encouraging all stores and vendors to work together for a mutually successful future. Negotiations must work both ways for them to work at all. Many stores have OTB available for immediate delivery but need advantageous prices to boost margin.
**From Fred, Lee, and Virginia: “We miss seeing our retailer, vendor, and trade show partners, and look forward to building newly energized collaborations together. But beyond business, we really miss the wonderful people who make our industry so special. Stay positive and be well friends; we can do this!”