The coronavirus has disrupted just about everything in our business. As a vendor we moved to hold all of our outbound shipments on March 17th realizing that stores and museums were in no position to take them. We wrote to everyone to let them know and asked if they wanted us to still ship the order. About 10% at the time did take their orders from while the overwhelming majority appreciated our pro-active response. Only one client canceled, and it was a small order. We want to stay connected with our customers and continue to do the right thing. As the saying goes “tough times don’t last, but tough people do” We found a survey from MI that may be helpful for you to see where they asked stores: 

How are you addressing current purchases from your vendors? 

Accepting Summer Orders          18% 
Cancel all Summer Orders          16% 
Put all Summer Orders On Hold 60% 
Don Know or No Response          6% 

What Percent of Your Merchandise Budget have you committed to Fall Purchases? 

Less than 50%     53% 
50-75%                25 
76-99 %               10 
100%                     4 
Don’t Know          8 

 So, you can see that most of you have put your spring/summer orders on hold and have not committed funds for your fall purchases. 

Decisions to make. 

Once you get a clear vision of what the new normal will be – when can you reopen, what restrictions will you have and what will the shopping experience look like, you can think about how to capitalize on opportunities and minimize risks. So, let’s say you get the green light on June 15th to open with social distancing, required masks in stores for employees and customers, what do you have to sell. Now is probably a good time to look into sourcing hand sanitizers, masks and plexiglass barriers for checkouts. Will you ask your customers to wear masks and will you provide them? What policy will you have on fitting rooms? People will be reluctant to use them even if you have them open. Can you reassure them by steaming all garments after try ons and wiping all jewelry with alcohol after try ons. The “shell shock” attitude of buyers is something that is hard to assess. 

Open Orders

From a sourcing standpoint if you open on June 15th how much of your summer season is left, when do you need to flip the page to concentrate on fall/winter? What open orders do you have and when are they scheduled to come? Since almost all of them will be “held” orders, contact your vendors and let them know when you want them and what if any adjustments you want to make in quantity or delivery dates. Remember your vendors are in the same boat you have of lost revenue, clogged supply lines and uncertainty. Work with them and they will work with you. 

Fall Buying 

Now for the fall/winter which will arrive whether we want it to or not. You will need to get new orders to fill demand for the fall and holidays. We have ordered stock in anticipation of your need for quicker deliveries. Demand is likely to be pent up so do not wait too long to tell vendors what you want and when you want them. Again, communication is a key to getting things done in a win/win way. We have been working with our artisans in Turkey, Ireland and Vietnam to check on how they are doing since in our mind taking care of people now is more important than taking care of business. We are also discussing how we will get supply lines with us reopen when the time comes. Finally, we are scheduled to go NY NOW and the Atlanta Gift Show, but frankly they may not happen or happen in the fall. We are considering having a Zoom virtual trade show presentation to show off our new pieces with live models and review our “show specials” Let us know what you think of this idea. [email protected] 

All of us will have a different answer to succeed, but the questions will all be the same. Now is the time to get organized!