We asked a number of top retailers – especially our regular columnists like Ellie Sanderson – to get their thoughts on paper and share their feelings. The results will inspire you
First thing’s first; I do hope everyone is keeping safe and healthy; this is such a tough and sad time especially for those of us that have lost anyone close. It’s also a difficult time if you are caring for or helping others, or indeed in isolation alone.
When Susi asked me to write my article I really didn’t want to. I asked for a month off but she said “NO”. She’s mean like that but I am glad she asked me. I guess I felt predicting what will happen is impossible, offering platitudes of positivity is not my place and pretending all will be normal any time soon is plain naive. I did, however, agree to do my usual column and I did find it cathartic and helpful to empty my thoughts onto paper. In this humbling time I hope they are useful and I thank you for reading.
The impact of Covid-19 in such a short time has changed the norms we built our businesses upon. It has created enormous challenges for the Global economy, which is still in free fall; it has ripped apart supply chains, paralysed retailers and left us all feeling a little helpless, depressed, sometimes hopeful and other times worried. Redundancies are being announced by all major airlines as I type and the economy is shrinking.
I am sure you are sad watching our broken high streets fall to depths we never imagined. They were on unstable footings but seeing retail giants cancelling autumn stock orders trying to preserve their cash flow is hard-core. Reading the list of retailers who have called in the administrators, retailers who are negotiating rescue plans and those who have handed over the reins to insolvency agencies are all normal things lately.
Bridal however, has always been different, we sell product that requires emotional and physical engagement. Our biggest enemy is not that our clients will find an alternative online option (though some may); our biggest enemy now is knowing how and when we will be able to get back to the physical engagement part of our job, the part of our job that currently is not allowed – and rightly so. Clearly until the two-metre social distancing rules change we are going to struggle. Not just physically seeing people but way bigger than that. Until the rules change, weddings will NOT be allowed, and I fear that change won’t happen until we find a vaccine.
Interestingly, though, are the comments from retailers generally. I speak to over 30 different retailers in various closed groups and they all have waiting lists of girls eager to get into their shops to buy. I too have lots of emails and messages asking to join my waiting list. However, as I have an online booking system I fire them over there and I have deliberately left my online diary open so that we can get a handle on demand (obviously closed up until lockdown deadlines) and girls are booking in. July, August and September are busy and this is great, in fact it’s bloody amazing. (Can I swear on here?)
All that said, my one giant nagging fear remains – will their weddings go ahead? Will they still have jobs in the next six months and are they just booking in because they are bored and have nothing else to do but plan their fantasy wedding. I may be 100% wrong and do sincerely hope I am.
We do have to take a positive view though or we will all go insane and so we have much to do. Those of us who were in reasonable shape pre lockdown and have managed to negotiate rent cuts or holidays, reduced costs and obtained government support should survive this. We should simply put our precious businesses to sleep for a few months until its safe to come back out again.
We should take this time to evaluate what we do and how we do it. This pandemic has stilled the world and made us reflect, review and revitalise. More than anything it has changed perspectives. Perspectives on what things and people are important.
For me the usual Saturday appointments with girls and their entire family, six bridesmaids and more had become crazy and are now a thing of the past. I simply don’t want that scenario in my business and I know every retailer I have spoken to says the same.
The silver lining here is that we are now in a brilliant position to manage our appointments from the ground up. We ALL need to decide that one guest; two at a push is what is the new norm. We entrepreneurs need to rise to this challenge and come out the other side of this stronger. And now here is my list of the top things we must be doing:
We need to get connected to our community of retailers. Join facebook groups, join retail associations. Connect with like-minded business people. Do not allow yourself to become isolated and stressed.
Stay visible – get social
• Retailers, photographers, venues, florists all need to stay connected. Share posts and have each others’ back.
• Let people in behind the scenes – show them how great you are.
• Don’t be shy, get in front of the camera and connect.
• Vulnerability is endearing (my greatest teacher brained that into me and it is utterly true).
• Use this quiet time to update your business systems.
• Consider a social media training course.
• Change your finance systems.
• Get online for everything you do.
• Update your website.
• Modify your Pinterest and Social media strategy.
Honestly this is the one and only time our businesses will be this still for this long. This is a time to learn and achieve. We will come out of this, who knows when and who knows what it will look like, but people will always get married and I sincerely hope this lockdown has brought about a few proposals.
In the meantime, my message to you is stay strong, stay safe and here’s to we all coming out of this soon.
Something to learn from
I have used this time also to develop my other little company that I set up over nine months ago. It’s called Ellie Sanderson Social. I have a small team of brilliant girls who work with me and we manage the social media platforms for five different companies that vary in size and genre from restaurants to retail, from photographer to estate agents and this has been an amazing time for social growth.
In this time of goodwill (and boredom) we are offering two bridal studios the opportunity to have an Ellie Sanderson Social Overhaul. We will review your set up and strategy across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and pinterest.
Ellie Sanderson Social
Two bridal studios – first come first picked, 100 miles away from Ellie Sanderson.
The offer is to check that all social platforms are maximised for connections and set up correctly.
We will run your SM for one week in order to coach and help you to take it on afterwards.
Please send your details to email@example.com