Founder Lucy Aylen shares how agility and a focus on community spirit is helping womenswear brand Never Fully Dressed cope with coronavirus’s impact on wholesale partners.
In times like this, you have to be grateful and count your blessings. Sometimes it takes a crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic to assess your business and make changes you otherwise wouldn’t have.
We’re lucky that our own online retail is managing really respectable orders. Obviously, it is not where we previously predicted sales would be for this month, but, given the climate, I’m pleased with the figures.
We don’t want to push back on our factories and damage our relationships with them
A lot of products have had to go on Sale, because wholesale stockists have closed their intake and we’ve had to absorb a lot of that stock. Some of that product has been things we wouldn’t normally put on Sale, but discounting has also allowed us to keep driving engagement through our social channels and keep the conversation going with our customers.
Being a small, agile team has really helped us during this period because we’ve been able to change how we work as needed. Working with a small third-party warehouse company has also helped: because they are a smaller team, they’ve been able to adhere to social-distancing measures really well.
Wholesale was a big areas of focus for us before coronavirus hit and that is where there has been the biggest impact on the business. Some wholesale partners have been great – very understanding and personal in their approach. Others have taken a harder line.
Some accounts have asked to put orders on hold until July, which as a small business we’re just not able to do. We’ve been able to cancel some orders but there are some where the fabric has already been ordered, so the question now is what we do about that. We’re lucky that our own retail is able to absorb some of those cancelled orders, because as a small business we just can’t sit on that amount of stock.
Discounting has allowed us to keep driving engagement through our social channels
I do think that smaller businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the bigger players cancelling orders and extending payment terms. We don’t want to push back on our factories and damage our relationships with them, because they are our future and who we will come out of the other side of all this with. It just wouldn’t feel right to me.
Our main focus during this time has been keeping our retail numbers up. Social channels have been really important. We already work really hard to build a community online and that has just become even more important. We’ve held activities like yoga classes and dance classes on Instagram, and created a Spotify playlist with some feel good songs.
It is about driving conversations with our customers. People feel so strange at this time with the monotony of working from home and they’re looking for anything that gives a bit of normality. Building a sense of community through our social channels also keeps us at the forefront of consumers’ minds and means they are invested in the brand in a way that goes beyond just buying clothing.
An agile approach to sourcing and a strong relationship with our factories has also been really important. We have one of our factories in Europe still open, and our Chinese factories are back up and running.
When the crisis first started, it was about pushing production through our UK and European factories. Obviously, we couldn’t predict that things would switch so quickly and now it is putting production back to China. Thankfully, our Chinese factories understand the brand and our handwriting really clearly as they’ve been working for us for many years.
We’re just taking each day as it comes – that’s the only way to get through something like this.