Ellie Sanderson shares her thoughts about the forthcoming week, when retailers will once again open their doors and many will have to deal with emotional swings and roundabouts
As I type this, we are days away from the 12th of April.
I must be honest and say that I have mixed feelings about the 12th and I know I am not alone. Chatting with dozens of bridal retailers (and a few that I coach) over the last few weeks, unearthed that we’re all feeling a similar set of emotions.
There is a sense of huge excitement about being able to get back in and sell dresses, and get that Pdq machine buzzing.
There is also a feeling of excitement to see the new stock we bought last year and to get these dresses on brides and return us some cash for our investment. There is excitement for some to re-open new premises, renovated premises or even a new business. There is so very much to be excited and thankful about.
The other set of emotions we all have is a huge feeling of anxiety. Most of us are feeling anxious at the number of appointments in our diaries. It’s like a tsunami; I have 65 appointments in our diary for the first week of opening. Measure appointments for girls that we sold to during lock down, sales appointments, fitting appointments and dress collection appointments. We are also open seven days a week and three late nights for the first few months and there is no let up in sight. So it’s a kind of happy anxiety.
Excitement and anxiety but there is also a feeling of worry and fear for some retailers. A fair few have found the last few months crippling and getting open as soon as possible, for them, is vital.
Some retailers are down to the wire with their cash flow. Bounce Back Loans used up and grants gone. The only way to survive this next quarter is to sell dresses and sell them fast.
I share this information because its important to know we have all had different experiences and a culture of shaming is not a culture we should be operating in right now. We should be lifting each other up and being supportive.
It is clear we have all had different experiences during lockdown but why are some retailers struggling more than others?
I spent some time investigating and it’s down to a number of things;
- The debt levels a retailer had going into the pandemic. Debt with suppliers has been a huge issue for most of those struggling. Bounce Back Loans have cleared it, but those retailers now have no reserves and with no recent income, buying new stock looks unlikely.
- Another key factor has been whether a retailer has been surviving on “balances due” in, instead of new business at the point the pandemic hit. This has made many wonder if they have a viable business model. Its also prompted them to adjust accordingly. If this is you – you need to think hard about how to change this negative cycle for the future.
- Some retailers didn’t manage to reduce costs when the pandemic hit, or were slow to react. It’s easy to see how this happened, at the beginning we all thought it was just for weeks not months on end!
- Most of the retailers that I spoke to that are in trouble were unable to re-negotiate with their landlord for some rent-free periods or discounted rent. As we all know rent, staff costs and product investment are the biggest costs we all have.
- The final factor that has separated those who have survived well ,versus those who are in dire trouble, is how they have spent – or not spent their Bounce Back Loans / grants / insurance claims. (If you got any). Those that used them up to clear debt and buy new now means the reserves are gone.
I feel so sad to hear news of retailers struggling; there have been so many business-changing moments for all of us over the past 12 months.
When and if to make a redundancy was my business- changing moment. It was gut wrenching but, by doing it at the right time, it saved me £25,000. It would have been easy to avoid it, but the minute I realised that Furlough was to be coded as taxable income the decision was made.
Decisions that we made over the past year are done now but that doesn’t mean the future can’t be changed or adjusted.
Now is the time to do that.
Re-opening after lockdown is our opportunity for change.
It is our opportunity to start again. I actually feel like I am opening a new business. I have spent the last year up-skilling my digital marketing abilities and, when we open on 12 April, I will have three new stylists and one new business manager. We have upgraded our website, installed a new marketing | data tracking system and we are good to go. I am chomping at the bit to get on and test it all but make no mistake, I also fall into the anxious camp. I am not afraid to admit that, I am not afraid to say that this has been the most challenging year of my business life.
Change is good and now is our time.
In signing off, I want to leave by saying this.
I feel we need to be kind to each other, supportive and understanding of everyone’s journey.
We each have our own story of how shocking the last year has been. From personal loss to financial loss. From retail to supply chain it’s been one hell of a ride.
Lets be kind, build each other up and let’s hope we have the best year ever.
Wedding Trader joins you all in celebrating a new life in bridal.