In My Humble Opinion

hgrass by hgrass @
It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve sent out an email and over a month since my last blog post, so I decided to sit down today and try to continue to stay “connected” with my stores (and the industry I love) via a new blog post.  It’s so hard to get a good sense of where things stand right now, especially since “things” are so different in different territories of the country.  I have spoken to several stores earlier this week and here is the consensus:

You are way past being bored and would love to open tomorrow if the law allows.  But…

You are still very concerned about your own health, your employees' health, and your customers’ health.  But…

You can’t afford financially to stay closed much longer.  But…

You want to open safely and have it make sense financially.  

You have been keeping busy communicating with current and future brides, tracking orders that are due in soon, general store housekeeping, applying for and accounting for loans and government programs... whilst doing your best to continue to market your business in preparation for the soft opening.  And yet…

This is exactly the opposite of what comes naturally to you which is opening your doors every morning, mingling with employees and brides, and selling wedding dresses.  It’s hard to make sense of it all.

So what does the future really hold for all of us?  I’m an optimist and a realist so here’s my take:

I expect that most stores (even in The Northeast) will be partially open within the next 2 weeks but there could be some pockets which extend out even longer.  Even when stores open it will not be at full capacity; from an employee standpoint nor from a customer standpoint.  Stores may choose to limit how many days of the week they are open, and try to rotate the employees who are willing to start working - to give their staff an opportunity to earn a paycheck.

Brides will have been stuck at home for 3 months, and they are going to be rushing in as weddings approach.  They are going to need things quickly, be willing to buy off of the rack, and will be less likely to travel long distances… nor feel the need to visit 5 or more shops to make a decision.  There will be many opportunities for quick decisive shopping, but there may also be some price resistance to higher tickets with uncertainty about future earnings.

This rush of business will be an adrenaline rush, and a much needed cash influx; and selling dresses off of the rack is rarely a bad thing.  But…

At some point these quick sales and sample selling are going to lead to a situation where you may not have enough of the “right” dresses on your racks, especially when fashion changes so quickly.  And everyone will not be getting married this fall so there will still be plenty of time for many brides to shop discriminately, and be comfortable waiting for a special order. And yet...

It is possible that the pandemic will see a spike this fall/winter, and it is even possible that there could be additional shutdowns mandated by the government before this is “over”.  And how does one define “over” anyway.  Until there is a vaccine (which looks like next year at the earliest) we are living in a new normal.  Most of us will be wearing masks whenever we go out for the foreseeable future, and that includes working in and shopping at a bridal store.

At the end of the day, a return to a "new normal" will be dictated far more by the comfort level of individual shoppers than by either what business owners want nor what the government dictates.

I’ve spent the last "600 words" talking about your side of the business and rightly so.  As difficult as it is for the manufacturer and the sales rep, I feel for you guys and wish I could do more.  But this is tough on our side as well.  How do we move forward with such uncertainty?  Do we design a new line for Spring 2021 or just “roll over” the Fall 2020 line into Spring?  What do we do about markets?  My guess is that trade shows will be one of the last things to be allowed to return, and it’s conceivable that the next market will be AFTER there is a vaccine.  Now you obviously can’t wait that long to replenish your stock so how do we best mimic the “normal” buying experience.  Will you be comfortable having a sales rep visit your store working with folders and swatches and iPads that were being worked with in another store just yesterday - or even earlier the same day?  Does working virtually through email and dropbox images -  and zoom meetings make more sense for the near future?  I realize I have posed more questions than answers but...

The bottom line is that I’m just as bored as you are, and my income has been drastically effected as well.  I want to get back to work just as much as my bosses do, and as you do.  How and when is the question I am grappling with.  Several of my stores have already written their orders for the season, and the reaction to the new product has been excellent.  The images I have are crystal clear, and Paloma Blanca and Mikaella even produced video fashion shows to help you compensate for the lack of a "live" experience at a market.

My companies have been preparing for the reopening, and it is really only a few weeks after NY market would have ended - when the majority of my stores' orders get placed. Even orders placed in early to mid June will arrive in your store in plenty of time for the selling season.  And I’ve always prided myself in being flexible - this season will be no different.

My plan is to re-send all of the information you will need to review the collections next week, and then to begin to reach out to you - giving priority to the areas that re-opened the earliest.  Should you be ready to speak to me before I contact you, feel free to reach out.  Until then stay positive and keep seeing what I’m seeing - The Light at The End of The Tunnel.

Stay safe,
HG

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