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By Fred Derring, Lee Leonard, and Virginia Sandquist at DLS

While we’ve all seen our share of hard times and changes, nothing compares to what we’re going through now! It’s a completely new world without road maps; old rules no longer apply. But with imagination, innovation, and problem-solving, smart merchants are creating new ways to do business.

**Implement e-commerce, now! While some merchants remain reluctant, those who have embraced it are ecstatic with the results. Brian Cohen from Harper’s raves about the extent to which e-commerce has added sales at a most-needed time. Now is when stores must embrace the concept; there are plenty of companies to guide you. And don’t forget to update your websites with relevant vendors, events, and marketing: your website is your virtual window to the world.

**Promote Shop Local. Build a network of nearby businesses including restaurants, wine shops, jewelry stores, galleries, knitting shops, etc. Why not give a small percentage of sales to a local charity to enhance what you represent to your community?


**Party On! Plan in-store events to romance your customers and create positive and memorable experiences (so badly needed at this time). Offer spa treatments, give them a haircut right in your store, offer tastings from the local bakery or wine store. Now more than ever, we all want to celebrate life, socially distanced of course.

**Call Your Customers. It’s the #1 best way to communicate, especially in this digital world we’ve created. Check-in, set an appointment, or have a video chat over lunch. Put together a curated box of items that match their personality and personally deliver it to their home or office. 

**Marketing works! Use your website, flipbooks, email campaigns, social media platforms, direct mail, and Google ads. In-store videos that feature the store, the store owner, and new arrivals are particularly effective. The Man Shop in Arlington, TX, Khakis of Carmel, CA and Mur-Lees on Long Island do these consistently well. The more they do, the better the results.


**Branch out! You need more than apparel to set the stage. Consider grooming, fragrances, bracelets, loungewear, sport & athletic socks, luxury underwear, tote and utility bags, canine accessories, decorative housewares, throw blankets, candles, tabletop books, tasty packaged foods, drink mixers, and any item you can think up to excite the customer! Masks have become an incredible business for Michael Duru; he now sells them on a separate website.

**Best bets: Focus on luxury sportswear for corporate customers not going to the office. We recommend M Baldassari, Waterville, Fradi, Zanella, Brax, Ballin Soft, and more… Ed and Mike at JS Edwards call it Zoom sportswear: why not create Zoom Sportswear shops within your store? Also, because we’re living and eating outdoors, vests might warrant a concept shop, as might athleisure, performance wear, hybrid sneakers, and anything with a sustainability factor. (Young people do care about saving the planet!) Another good bet: brands with reliable in-stock programs. (34 Heritage does a great job filling in denim!)


**Seek out new vendors! As tough as it might be to drop an old friend, why not take a break from underperforming brands and try something new? Even if you bring in just two new brands each season, it’s a reason for guys to come into the store.

Let’s join together, share successes, and embrace the upcoming challenges with enthusiasm and resolve.


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