Newly launched pan-industry group RetailersUnited sort of sounds like a high-five among superheroes — and that’s precisely what it is.

The group said retail businesses and fashion industry-related firms have joined forces to save lives and save jobs by creating a centralized platform to source and distribute PPE to those on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis.

Companies Coresight Research, Gerber Technology, Li & Fung, MMG Advisors and Microsoft, as well as advisers from the health-care industry, created RetailersUnited, a new “ecosystem” called Bashi COVID Care, to connect manufacturers, retailers, consumers, health-care organizations and others looking to donate services, materials, goods, time or funds in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The group said it has already received support from MSQ Ventures, CGS, Xcel Brands, Soles4Souls and Kohl’s, among many others, that are helping develop the initiative.

Bashi is a start-up within the Fung Group, which encompasses Li & Fung, Global Brands Group and others, according to RetailersUnited.

Kyle Markley, founder of Bashi, told WWD, “At Bashi, we felt deeply that we needed to help in any way possible to combat this global pandemic. In early March, we launched a design campaign for woven masks, but as COVID-19 continued to impact everyone’s lives, we knew we needed to do more. When we launched RetailersUnited, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to utilize our technology to make the biggest impact possible, and Bashi COVID Care was born. Our goal is to match supply and demand for PPE and related products and services.”

Its platform could be likened to a “decentralized Craigslist” or LinkedIn type of web site — that is, based on user-generated content and trusted relationships — taking aim at “solving logistical problems by connecting supply to demand in new channels,” in addition to streamlining issues at the source, “by connecting manufacturers with information on what they need to make and how to make it, so that non-PPE manufacturers can pivot to today’s most urgent necessities,” RetailersUnited said.

“RetailersUnited’s objective is to help save lives by providing PPE to health-care frontline workers,” the group explained, but it’s “also about saving jobs by reorienting manufacturing and supply chains toward essential needs, helping keep them in business, as well as by helping retailers run their businesses safely in the age of COVID-19.”

Deborah Weinswig, Founder and CEO at Coresight Research

Deborah Weinswig, founder and ceo at Coresight Research.  Courtesy Image

Deborah Weinswig, founder and chief executive officer of Coresight Research, a research and advisory firm specializing in retail and technology, said, “For those on the frontlines, whether in health care, delivery or retail, every day they risk their lives, as if in wartime combat. These people need to be properly protected. So it is incumbent on those of us who have the skills, connections and platforms to put together solutions like this.

“We’ve brought together some of the world’s best minds and problem-solvers for a coordinated response that will help protect our frontline providers and workers across the country. We have the platform — and we have the players.”

Karsten Newbury, chief strategy and digital officer and PPE Task Force Leader at Gerber Technology, a solution firm that specializes in fashion and apparel, added, “Critical to this initiative are three needs: First, to make sure existing PPE manufacturers keep operations running and scale; secondly, to help non-PPE manufacturers re-tool to PPE, and thirdly, to help match demand with supply of PPE products through a partnership network.”

Newbury told WWD, “We see a clear need to redefine the supply chain, driven by both medical and consumer PPE needs in the U.S. and around the world. Organizations, such as RetailersUnited, play a key role in filling the critical need for connecting the different parties to ensure rapid PPE supply that can help save both lives and jobs. At Gerber, we can support this effort by helping transition manufacturers to PPE production, offering tools and expertise as well as connecting our partner ecosystem with those that need raw materials, are looking for cut and sew production capacity, or finished PPE products.”

And upon hearing of RetailersUnited’s mission, other industry players want in. Fashwire, a discovery and shopping marketplace fashion start-up, will donate a dollar for every download of its app to the initiative. Fashwire ceo and founder, Kimberly Carney, told WWD, “Witnessing how our own designers were so significantly impacted was one of the key driving forces behind Fashwire’s involvement in this initiative, and our vast global reach within the fashion and retail community is an opportunity to leverage that power for the greater good.”

RetailersUnited operates under a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit structure, enabling all proceeds generated to be donated to swift PPE sourcing and distribution — and to helping those on the frontlines.

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