Store owners in Chicago are taking a day-by-day approach to managing their business and spring inventories amid the temporary store closures resulting from coronavirus.
At Lakeview boutique Krista K, the store is offering a 20 percent discount sitewide on its e-commerce site, which started on Thursday. The web business typically accounts for about 5 to 7 percent of the store’s total sales.
“Right now, our whole store is full of inventory, the store is full of spring merchandise,” said owner Krista Kaur Meyers, who just returned from Los Angeles for the second half of her fall buy. Upon return, she reached out to all of her vendors and asked them to hold all deliveries.
“The merchandise we’re getting, people will wear in Chicago through September, we have some buy-now-wear-now, but a lot of it is aimed toward warmer temperatures. It just depends on the consumer mind-set and their ability to spend,” Meyers said.
She wants to avoid further markdowns if possible.
“We never try to play the markdown game; that’s what damaged the industry,” Meyers said. “We’re much more about our relationships and we have an incredible clientele. I can’t believe people — they’re ordering gift cards, they said they can’t wait to shop, they’re buying online, this week, the sales have not been that bad. I’m grateful and amazed. I would say we’ll continue to nurture our relationships with our clients. That’s the approach I’ll take versus trying to take a bigger, deeper discount.”
Up until this, business was good, Meyers said.
“Our numbers were looking good, it’s just looking forward — we don’t know the timeline and we don’t know the impact,” she said.
She said she’d be happy if her store reopened in two weeks.
“I’m prepared for longer than that,” Meyers said. “They’re keeping the schools closed until April 20, I’ve heard organizations say to plan on working from home until mid-April, so that’s more than two weeks. I’m prepared for that.”
On a positive note, sales have continued each day despite these challenging times, she said.
“We’ve done home deliveries and drop offs, and up until yesterday, we had individual appointments with clients in the store,” Meyers said. “We were taking every precaution. We’re a 2,000-square-foot store and we were social distancing, using Lysol and wiping down every shared surface, spraying the store, door handles, the railing, countertops.”
In Gold Coast, Lance Lawson, co-owner of Space 519, said how it will manage spring merchandise depends on how long the store will be closed.
“If we’re just closed for two weeks that would be one thing, but if it’s going to be a longer period, it could get much dicier,” Lawson said.
He said the store will follow the lead of its well-known partners.
“With our more well-known partners, we’ll have to follow their lead in terms of discounting since they discount on their web sites. Who knows if they’re going to do that?” he said. “Things we have from Italy, we have much more flexibility.”
At this time, he said it’s impossible to forecast as there are too many variables.
“It could be a month easily,” Lawson said, regarding the store closure. “[President] Trump said like August, plus it means the rest of the year will be so difficult because the economy will be in the sh–ter. It will take a long time to undig out of this.”
Prior to this, the store was having a really good year, he said.
“We were 30 percent up and then this all happened,” Lawson said. “I’m sure we’ll find a way to move forward. We at least have to finish the season.”
He’s trying to remain optimistic.
“I don’t have a plan. I’m exhausted, I’m hoping once we are closed, we might be sparked to figure this out,” he said. “We’ll probably do some virtual trunk shows over the next couple weeks while we’re closed.”
Some customers have purchased gift certificates to be used for when the store reopens.
“It’s very difficult to survive without any revenue coming in,” Lawson said. “We’re not really built to sell online, it’s not like we can just overnight put everything online, but we’ll see what happens. Our whole business is based on a brick-and-mortar experience.”
As a rule, the store never discounts or offers promotional discounting.
“We tend to have just twice annual sales and there’s very little left,” he said. “We don’t carry a lot of inventory, we sell things quickly.”