Independent Retailers Describe Life During Lockdown: Part 5
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 – in addition to causing hundreds of thousands of tragic deaths – has 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’ve been hitting up some retail homies across the world to see how they’re coping, and to discover what steps they’re taking to adapt. In Part 5 of the series, we checked in with Up There, Baskèts, and Foot District.
Where are you located? What are the current restrictions set in place by local authorities?
Up There: Melbourne, Australia. For retail trade, there has been surprisingly light restrictions. We could have stayed open through the whole saga, so long as we adhered to social distancing rules. However, we chose to close on March 23, for the safety of our staff and customers. We are located in the CBD, and foot traffic has been non-existent. Most businesses located in the CBD were instructed to work from home, and Australians were told to only go out for essentials, so staying open would have been difficult regardless of the restrictions put in place.
Baskèts: We have two stores in Amsterdam. There have been a lot of restrictions for the past two months, but everything is slowly getting back to normal. Most of the restaurants and other public spaces will open their doors on June 1.
Foot District: We have a store in Madrid, and another in Barcelona. Our headquarters are located in Leon. The Spanish government imposed a complete lockdown. The minimum services such as food, post, pharmacies, etc. are still running, but non-essential retail businesses like ours remain temporarily closed.
In the past months, what's been the biggest change to your business?
Up There: Not being able to offer our unique in-store experience has been the biggest change. Some of the products we sell really need to be touched and seen to be fully appreciated. We also strive to offer a unique, friendly, and helpful service to all our customers, which we miss!
Baskèts: The lockdown started on March 14, and we closed both of our shops and office the Monday after. The shops were closed for over a month. The start was kind of stressful when everything was super unsure, with no perspective at all. We immediately made sure our staff were safe and sound, and looked at new opportunities. Luckily for us, we have an online store that performs well, so we shifted our focus for some time.
Foot District: We had to adapt to an entirely virtual planning, and strengthening our ties with our community more than ever. We have our office team working from home, our stores are temporarily closed, and we implemented all the security measures in our warehouse to ensure our staff and customers’ safety. We also focused on boosting our online presence by creating more leisure activities and online campaigns.
How has the typical day-to-day management of the store changed? What is a typical day like at the moment?
Up There: Day-to-day is now all about making sure we offer the best experience online. Making sure the store is updated quickly, and orders are packed and shipped ASAP. We’re also trying to offer some unique social experiences online by conducting interviews with friends in the industry from around the world.
Baskèts: To be honest, not much has changed. The only thing that’s really changed is the number of people allowed in the store at the same time, which is two. We took care of more hygiene essentials for staff and customers. For the last three weeks, we’ve been operating the same way we did before the virus. We’ve noticed that because most people are working from home, the busy days have changed from weekends to weekdays.
Foot District: Our delivery process continues operating as normal as possible. We also maintain our normal office hours. We can easily keep ourselves updated at any time through mail, phone, and other platforms.
How will you adapt your business over the next few months?
Up There: Over the next few months, we’ll keep trying to enhance the online experience. We’re working on some exciting developments, so hopefully it all comes together quickly! We’ll also be launching a personal shopping experience in-store as a unique way for consumers to come and visit us in the bricks-and-mortar store.
Baskèts: Keep doing new things and focusing on the release of our own Baskèts collection, which will arrive soon. We have a partnership with UberEATS called Baskèts Café, where every other week we go live on the app with a new local chef and menu. We livestream it in-store, and you can also order non-food related products, such as the Baskèts collection. It will be delivered just like your food within 30 minutes.
Foot District: Creating new virtual experiences for our community. We would like to focus more on online initiatives and campaigns, giveaways on social media, entertainment, etc.
Anything you want to say to SF readers? How can the community support?
Up There: We want to start by thanking every one in the SF community for their support over the last 10 years. It’s the ongoing support over a long period of time that has made it easier to navigate through these tough times. As for moving forward, KEEP SUPPORTING LOCAL, and when stores do start to open, pay them a visit and see how they’re tracking!
Baskèts: We hope everybody around the world stays safe and healthy. Take care of your loved ones. You can support us by shopping online or dropping by to check out the store and cop a good cup of coffee. Like mentioned before, the new collection is dropping soon!
Foot District: We would like to encourage everyone to take care of themselves and their loved ones by following the sanitation measures and keeping strongly united. Our community proved to be a great help, and we would like to thank them for keep trusting us. It is reasonable to expect that the fashion industry will face a great challenge, and both the retailers as well as the costumers should prepare for it.
How do you think COVID-19 will affect the long-term future of the sneaker scene?
Up There: The long-term affects are hard to predict – a lot will come down to how quickly the recovery is across the world. It’s a global community, so a quick recovery in Australia doesn’t mean that everything is on the way up. It will certainly push more business online, forcing them to offer a truly unique in-store experience to garner the consumer’s time and attention.
Baskèts: I don’t think it will affect the sneaker scene in the Benelux in a bad way in the long-term, but more in the short-term. For example, products that can’t be delivered on time – or at all. It will affect the sneaker scene in a good way, too. People will think about cool, creative and profitable things outside the store to fill the gap when something like COVID-19 ever happens again.
Foot District: It’s likely that the brands will release less models, and less frequently. This will directly impact on the quality of the products that are released. It will surely also impact us and our way of appreciating each piece, forgetting about the hype commercialisation, and stopping the cash-grabs.
What have you learned in the past few weeks about yourself and your business?
Up There: We’ve learnt a lot! Everyday something new. We’ve learnt that we need to be nimble, to make quicker and smarter decisions. We can’t predict anything - the world is always changing around us. We’ve been reminded that we have a great community, who cares about what we do, and that deserve the very best from us!
Baskèts: That everything you need is a good team. We’re in this together, and together we will overcome this all and come out stronger. Look at new opportunities and be creative. The biggest thing for me is to enjoy all the small things you have, and don’t take anything for granted.
Foot District: These moments remind us of what matters most. We need to be thankful for having our special ones healthy and safe. The unpredictable events happen, and every business needs to be prepared for these.
Want to hear more? You can check out Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here. We'd like to thank all the retailers involved for taking part in the series, and for sharing their stories. Stay safe, everyone!