As part of a Management One Zoom seminar last week, a well-respected menswear merchant in Houston candidly reassesses his business. Here, some lessons from Murry Penner of M Penner.
“This pandemic has changed me: for the first time ever, I’m frightened for my business. Appointments are harder to get than I anticipated. And I now realize all the things we should have been doing. Most importantly, we should have focused on building an online/virtual business, something I always knew but didn’t want to deal with.
“We closed the store on March 16th voluntarily, three days before the government mandate. During the weeks we were closed, we continued our customer outreach. We did a marketing push promoting curbside pick-up. We promoted gift cards and closet cleanings. We sent out a digital magazine that was more about connecting with customers than pushing product. Our sales associates contacted hundreds of customers—not to sell but to see how they were doing. Karen demonstrated all of our family recipes on Facebook Live.
“We’ve now been open almost three weeks: after the initial shock, we decided no looking back, just forward. We’ve redefined routine as change. We take daily temperatures of all employees, (but not of customers—that didn’t feel right to us.) We’re working with a company to redesign our website, which will be live in early June. We’re learning the ins and outs of social media and virtual selling.
“Most importantly, we’re right-sizing our business by half, working with our landlord to take less space in a busier part of the center. We were too clothing-centric and we’re working to correct that. We will continue to embrace luxury but will curate our own mix, which will feature a more exclusive product: we’re looking at many different ways to expand on luxury. Finally, we have no plans to promote until mid-July: the ridiculous cadence of early delivery and rush to sale has long created serious problems for most fashion retailers. That said, we will continue to focus on fashion.”