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Being a young, independent business as the global economy hurls toward a recession is not a great position to be in, but Who What Wear is looking to help some fashion and beauty brands in one way it knows how.

The popular shopping-focused site next week will start a “Spotlight” series, in which it will give one brand a week free on-site advertising, coverage and social media content in an effort to drive sales and awareness of small brands as the coronavirus pandemic has zapped marketing budgets, particularly those of independent brands.

Having started as a shopping suggestion site in 2006, an ethos still very much the core of Who What Wear and its business, cofounder and chief content officer Hilary Kerr said she distinctly remembers being a young business during a recession.

“This is truly something I wish we’d had when Katherine [Power] and I started out, really right before a huge recession hit,” Kerr said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think we got a lot of support during that time, but now we have an amazing opportunity to help some businesses, hopefully those that are underrepresented.”

The process to apply is not very technical. Kerr said Who What Wear will make a Google spreadsheet accessible to readers, allowing them to suggest brands they would like to see supported for a week and why. And brands will be welcome to suggest themselves as well. Then Kerr and the Who What Wear team will make selections. 

Three brands have already been chosen by the company for the first three weeks of the initiative. The first will be L.A.’s LCD, a women’s wear shop founded by Geraldine Chung. Then Henning, a brand offering women’s clothing in larger sizes started by Lauren Chan, will get a turn, as will The Crown Affair, a range of hair care started by Dianna Cohen.

While the project is indeed a response to the economic upheaval caused by measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus and the negative impact it’s had on brands of all sizes, with small businesses without access to heaps of cash at most risk of disappearing, Kerr said there is no end date to the program. 

“I hope this is something that we can continue for a long time.”

And the program is not simply about Who What Wear filling in empty ad space on its site or an attempt to boost its affiliate-heavy business. Brands chosen for “Spotlight” will get prime ad space on the site. “This isn’t just a remnant ad inventory opportunity,” Kerr said. She added that Who What Wear is actually seeing “pre-pandemic” levels of shopping on the site, so a lot of brands and retailers have chosen to keep going with their affiliate business, although others have not.

“Some retailers decided to turn it off…but last month was actually really strong from an affiliate standpoint,” Kerr said. “Our audience still really loves shopping and are doing so at pre-pandemic levels. At the end of the day, we have a lot of amazing affiliate relationships that go back many years and we have a vast amount of data to show partners that the audience comes to us to shop.”

Kerr thinks this willingness to keep spending among the Who What Wear audience can benefit some smaller brands that can’t afford to pay for affiliate links.

“Our audience cares about brands and where their money is going right now,” Kerr said. “They want them around after the pandemic.”

For More, See:

Fashion P.R. Agencies Keep Culling Staff Amid Coronavirus Fallout

Coronavirus Poised to Be Worse for Advertising, Media Than Last Recession

What Are People Shopping for During Coronavirus Lockdown?