ARTICLE BY Sneaker Freaker

Independent Retailers Describe Life During Lockdown: Part 1

Above The Clouds, Sydney

They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. The truth is, we totally knew what we had, we just never thought we’d lose it. The COVID-19 pandemic – aside from hundreds of thousands of tragic deaths – initiated a turbulent economic disaster that has left many sneaker doors, especially independents, facing nervous futures. While online sales might be booming, those numbers don’t even go close to offsetting the losses that stem from bricks-and-mortar lockdown.

We hit up some retail homies across the world to see how they’re coping, and what steps they’re taking to adapt. In Part 1 of the series, we’ve checked in with Above The Clouds, PAR5MILANO, and UPS Skate Shop.


Where are you located? What are the current restrictions set in place by local authorities?

PAR5: In Milan, we temporarily closed our store to the public on March 11 to ensure the wellbeing of both our staff and our community.

UPS: We're in Sydney, Australia. No restrictions have been placed on us, but shopping centres are still open! That is ridiculous. It's putting no pressure on larger entities to reduce rent for their tenants that have no customers and no income right now. We're lucky to be in a small mall, and we're close to our landlords who are willing to work with us and they want to keep us. I can only imagine how small independent businesses in malls are coping. It makes no sense at all for shopping centres to remain open - given the new rules.

In the past month, what's been the biggest change to your business?

ATC: We have closed the physical store and completely shifted our focus to online.

UPS: The physical store is closed, and our revenue has dropped by at least 40 per cent. We're lucky to have put a lot of time and effort into our webstore over the years, so we have that to fall back on. However, without foot traffic, which is our bread and butter, times are tough.

How has the typical day-to-day management of the store changed? What is a typical day like at the moment?

ATC: A typical day at the moment mostly consists of one or two staff in-store packing online orders! We are still taking deliveries, shooting product for the web, and creating as much content as possible for socials. It’s all business as usual - as much as it can be - except no physical interaction with customers, which we miss!

PAR5: Our office is currently working from home to keep our online store active, and our customers satisfied. We hope this situation can end soon, so we can go back to our normal routine.

UPS: We only have delivery drivers delivering stock or picking up online orders coming into the store. We used to be open 10am to 8pm everyday, now we go in at 11am and leave at 5pm, basically when the deliveries and pick ups are done. We don't even go in on weekends anymore - no point, delivery people don't work then.

Above The Clouds, Sydney

How will you adapt your business over the next few months?

ATC: We will continue to focus on our online experience, which we have been doing for the last few years anyway. We will try to think of new ways to engage with our customers and tell the stories of the amazing brands we carry. Without that physical, touch-and-feel in-store experience, we have to figure out ways to recreate that digitally.

PAR5: We don’t have an answer because, at the moment, everything is so uncertain. What we know is that we will keep our huge passion for the sneaker world, and we will not forget our heritage - we've been in this business since 2003. For this we created the ‘Par5 Archive’, a collection of past limited editions proposed in deadstock conditions, taken from our historical archive.

UPS: Online, online, online! Give us your money, but only online! NO CASH CHOPPER! We're getting some help with our online marketing from some industry friends, which will be good. We're just trying to figure out all the government surplus packs, so we can get some of our tax money back, and hopefully make it through all this a little easier.

Anything you want to say to SF readers? How can the community support?

ATC: Let’s focus on the positives. We have already seen a lot of future releases either cancelled or pushed back due to COVID-19. This has forced brands to focus on only the strongest product that they believe will succeed in this tough economic environment. This will result in smaller but stronger offerings across the market, which is definitely a positive!

PAR5: Our customers and our community already support us in this moment, and we have to thank all of them for this. We are all in this together, and we hope we will come out stronger than before. The spread of COVID-19 will inevitably have consequences on the fashion industry and, of course, the sneaker scene. We think it will be a slow down in general in fashion. Less hype market, more heritage pieces, and more attention to the product.

UPS: I find it difficult to say a hard 'support your local'. We've been trying to say 'support if you can' instead. Loads of people are probably living pretty skint right now, and I'd hate for them to be spending money they don't have. If you do have money, buy stuff from your favourite stores! Buy stuff from your favourite food and booze spots if they're offering takeaway. Stay inside, no pashing strangers, no hi-5s with your mates, no picnics in the park.

What have you learned in the past few weeks about yourself and your business?

ATC: I’ve really enjoyed the slower pace, and have spent a lot more time with my wife and son, which has been amazing… and I’ve learnt that I really like wine! In terms of business, I am constantly learning, no matter the circumstances. More than ever, I’ve learnt to be thankful for my staff, business partner, suppliers, and customers, so we can continue to do what we do best!

PAR5: To appreciate and value everyday what we have, and what we can do. Most of all, to not take anything for granted.

Stay tuned as we spotlight more retailers as part of this series. You can check out Part 2 here and Part 3 here... Stay safe, everyone!

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