As health officials encourage social distancing and tell people to stay home, the impact on apparel retailers is being felt far and wide.
Consumers are not only not in the mood to shop as they hunker down at home, but they’re wary of trying on clothes and shoes, opening the doors to the stores, and being in close proximity to other shoppers and sales help. In addition, retailers say so many events are being canceled, that shoppers don’t necessarily need new clothes at this time.
Lori Friedman, owner of Great Stuff, a contemporary apparel retailer with stores in Scarsdale, Rye, and Chappaqua, N.Y., and Westport and Greenwich, Conn., said business hasn’t been good at all. “Nobody wants to come out,” said Friedman. “Those that do, we’ll keep the doors open so they don’t have to touch the handle, and we’re calling people to see if they need clothes.
“I don’t blame them. I’ll do the best I can. I’ll sell the clothes. There will be pent-up demand. I have the right things, and I have beautiful things,” she said. Friedman also said that if shipments come late, she’ll have to cancel.
Friedman said that she doesn’t know how some of the brands will get their merchandise in on time, if their clothing factories are in Italy. She said a lot of the merchandise she carries is made in China. “I think everybody is in trouble,” said Friedman, adding that she hasn’t canceled any orders yet.
But she echoed other people saying, “People aren’t in the mood. They’re not going to go anywhere, concerts have been canceled. They need sweats,” she said, adding that she has half of her spring merchandise in, and she flowed it in for Feb. 20 and March 30 deliveries.
“They’re not leaving their houses except to buy food. They don’t want to shop online,” she said. Their mind-set is they want to get through this and then they’ll feel more comfortable, she added.
Friedman recalled that after Sept. 11, customers shopped like crazy. “This is contagious. That’s the difference here,” she said. She noted that she has one very stylish customer who is wearing Latex gloves everywhere, to the supermarket, out to dinner, wherever she goes.
Deirdre Quinn, chief executive officer of Lafayette 148, said her number-one priority continues to be safeguarding the health and well-being of her employees. She has set up a temperature check at the Brooklyn headquarters, which isn’t mandatory, but she’ll tell a worker to go home if they have a temperature.
Lafayette 148 has nine stores around the country, “and traffic has definitely decreased.”
“We went from an awesome February to a bummer,” she said. She’s doing everything they can to assist the customer. “If a customer wants us to bring clothes to her, we will go above and beyond,” she said, including doing a video appointment for one customer. “People are nervous,” she said.
Lafayette 148 owns its own factory in China and she said that things are starting to return to normal. “We’re at 50 percent of plan, last month it was zero. Our factories are at 95 percent capacity for our manufacturing.” One downside is the mills are closed in Italy, where the brand buys fabrics and accessories. She said if it lasts for only a couple of weeks, they’ll be OK. “We have sewers but not fabric,” she said.
The company is making sure the stores are clean and she hasn’t had to close any in the U.S.
Ramy Brook Sharp, founder and co-chief executive officer of Ramy Brook, the advanced contemporary sportswear company, has decided to temporarily close its 2,000-square-foot store at 980 Madison Avenue in New York, effective Monday, and will gauge the appropriate time to open it. Sharp said they made that decision for the safety of their employees. They will have staff helping with FaceTime styling and messengering packages to and from customers.
“We’re lucky we have a strong e-commerce business,” she added.
Fivestory, the designer apparel and accessories boutique located in a townhouse in New York, has decided to close at 18 East 69th Street until further notice. The company sent out an email, suggesting customers visit FivestoryNY.com.
Misha Nonoo is temporary closing its newly opened Hudson Street retail store. The store noted that its stylists will be available for text and video consultations. They are available at email@example.com. The company also noted its online store is open for business.
Winnie Beattie, owner of Warm, a 1,200-square-foot specialty store on Mott Street in New York, said, “So far, it [business] has been strong, but we’re anticipating it will slow down.” She said people shop at her store “as a form of escape.” Her New York clientele is still taking vacations, and “foot traffic remains strong.” She noted that in previous crises, such as Hurricane Sandy, “people were encouraged to gather and spend money. People are now encouraged to stay home,” she said.
Lester’s, which caters to babies, kids, juniors and women, and has stores in New York, Rye Brook, N.Y., and Greenvale, N.Y., has sent out e-mails saying it is offering FaceTime appointments for parents to buy their kids’ clothing and necessities for sleep-away camp, as well as new parents to buy their layettes.
Emily Holt, owner of The Hero Shop, two stores in San Francisco, said, they have e-commerce and have always offered home delivery, “but now we’re prioritizing it.” Clients can e-mail her directly to request a care package of spring looks and they’ll deliver it via messenger if they’re local, or FedEx if they’re not, to their door. The charge for the box is $25, which covers shipping and labor and clients can keep what they want and return what they don’t.
All Too Human, a women’s and men’s boutique in Boston, has decided to close its store to the general public from March 15 to March 22. it is offering customers an opportunity to book a private appointment with its stylists in store or at home and do virtual styling via FaceTime. it is also offering “Try before you buy” with consignment packages shipped directly to one’s home. All Too Human is also suggesting customers shop via Farfetch.
“During these uncertain times, our goal is to provide you with the same top-notch All Too Human experience in a safe and comfortable environment,” said Jessica Knez, owner of All Too Human, in an e-mail.
Alex Mill, a specialty store on Mercer Street in New York, has begun virtual styling sessions where a customer can have the attention and advice of an in-store experience from one’s own home with one of their staff members. People can call and set up appointments via FaceTime or Google Hangouts. The store is also thoroughly sanitizing the shop daily.
RTH Shop, a designer clothing store in West Hollywood, Calif., as of Friday will be open by appointment only. “Doing so will allow us to manage the number of folks in the shop at one time (plus it gives us some real one-on-one opportunities with each of you) to effectively clean/disinfect and prepare for our next appointment,” said René Holguin, owner, in an e-mail. “For the safety of our guests and staff, we ask any customers that have visited any high-risk countries to wait at least 14 days before coming in,” he said. “Additionally we ask anyone with any flu-like symptoms to please see a health-care provider prior to making an appointment. We will be monitoring ourselves, too. Anyone exhibiting any signs of a cold or flu will be asked to stay home until cleared by a health-care professional.”
An e-mail from Westfield Century City, the shopping mall in Los Angeles, said that in addition to their customary thorough cleaning practices, they are taking several measures in their shopping center, including increasing the frequency and intensity of their cleaning and focusing on its housekeeping in high-touch areas, including restrooms, play areas, dining areas, and water fountains. They are also deploying a public service ad campaign in the shopping enter to enforce preventative measures to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s also sent out e-mails to customers saying how they are increasing the frequency of cleaning of high-touch areas throughout their stores, and that their stores remain open for business.
“Our stores are open to serve our customers and we hope to see you soon. However, we understand that in the current environment, some customers prefer not to visit a store. We are here for you 24/7 through macys.com or on our mobile app, said Jeff Gennette, chairman and chief executive officer of Macy’s, Inc.