Q: It seems like every day I’m reading about new retail bankruptcies and it really has me down. As a small business owner, how can I stay motivated to keep my business improving? Are you seeing a different outlook among smaller apparel stores?
Steve Pruitt: You’re right, the news can be depressing, which is why we tell our merchants to turn off the news. The big headlines are usually about large retailers who were over-leveraged before the pandemic hit and who are trying to get relief through bankruptcy or even have grounds to renegotiate their leases.
Yes, this economic slowdown is a challenge, but for many larger and mall operations, it was just the last straw on an already shaky foundation.
Here’s what we know about our independent merchants now: we are seeing sales improve week by week. They are still down 40 percent to 50 percent from last year, but business keeps improving. In some areas, such as resort locations, sales are beating previous years.
Womenswear stores are doing better than men’s overall, but there are outliers. We have some men’s operations that have really outperformed in recent months. These are stores that continue to hustle and be creative with how they sell. They’re also finding some pent-up demand on the men’s side, and they’re giving them good reasons to buy again.
There’s certainly some bad news out there if you are looking for it, but I encourage you to really focus on your local market. It’s all about your relationships with customers now and our smaller, independent stores are in a better position to rebuild those relationships than anyone else.
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