30 March 2020

How to stay on your retail grind during COVID-19

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by Audrey Taylor
With everything going on in the world right now, we are all experiencing a lot of uncertainty in both our personal and professional lives. Events are canceled, travel is restricted, and people have been asked to stay home as much as possible. The apparel industry is no exception when it comes to feeling the effects of the COVID-19 situation. 
By now, most trade shows that were scheduled for the spring season have been canceled or postponed. That means the typical buying calendar for wholesale apparel has been disrupted for an undetermined amount of time. Despite all these challenges, we are confident the fashion industry will do what it has always done best – ADAPT. As a community, there are many ways we can support each other. At OFFPRICE we are committed to helping you navigate these unprecedented circumstances and extend our resources and support for you and your business during this challenging time. 
Take advantage of online resources
Now more than ever, we’re turning towards technology to conduct our usual business functions. Just as consumers are relying on e-commerce, businesses can also fulfill their inventory needs through online marketplaces. OFFPRICE365.com is open 24/7 and 365 days a year. OFFPRICE buyers and vendors can connect with each other through this marketplace anytime/anywhere.
Although some vendors already have their own websites where they showcase merchandise, our marketplace conveniently accumulates the vendors and products all in one location. Buyers can browse product images and details, message sellers directly to place orders, and book appointments for future shows. The best part is you have nothing to lose because signing up is free!
Now is also the time to focus on your e-commerce businesses and social media engagement. Stay connected with your customers as much as possible, even if you aren’t getting any face-to-face time with them. Get creative with your approach in order to make your products visible and accessible. Some boutiques are offering appointment shopping, phone/FaceTime orders and home drop offs. In addition, Instagram has a wonderful new checkout feature and platforms such as shopify and SHOPTIQUES allow small business owners to easily launch and manage e-commerce sites.  
Plan ahead
None of us can predict how long our industry will be feeling the residual effects of this economic disruption, but there is no question that stores and suppliers will be faced with high demands once the economy opens up again. However, Jorge Lopez from Hanton International advises that when this happens, we’ll undoubtedly see a shift in buying habits. The demand will be highest for low cost and basic items. Many families will be hit hard by the economical impact of the virus, but when schools are back in session and people go back to work, they won’t be looking to stock up on brand name goods. They will gravitate towards off-price merchandise that meets their everyday needs. It will be vital for retailers to have these types of products available for them when that time comes. 
Many large chain retailers are focusing on essential household products rather than fashion and apparel items and vendors currently have excess merchandise available that normally would’ve been sold at trade shows by now. For smaller retailers, this creates an opportunity to source better product selections and potentially better deals than usual. Our online marketplace is updated daily with new products and new vendors. But, just like the toilet paper and hand sanitizer on your local supermarket shelves, the deals are first come, first serve. Don’t pass up a good deal now, because it is possible that it won’t be there later. If you aren’t planning ahead, someone else certainly is. 
Don’t panic
It may seem tempting to put a hold on everything right now, but the best thing you can do is stay motivated and keep grinding. It is important to maintain regular operations as much as possible so that you are ahead of the curve once the disruption is over. As a supplier, Adnan Shamsi from Cosmo Trading says that it’s essential to keep open channels of communication with both your consumers and suppliers. Don’t be afraid to ask your trusted vendors if they are willing to work with you and be flexible during these unusual circumstances. Instead of canceling an order, consider asking your supplier to pack and hold.
Ultimately, these times of uncertainty will pass and eventually life will go back to normal. Reports out of China are that offices and factories are already starting to open up again and people are going back to work. In the meantime, we are all in this together and as an industry we will come out of this stronger than before. If you get creative, take advantage of online resources, stay connected and plan ahead, then your business will easily be able to bounce back into its typical routine. Above all else, stay positive and support each other.
Remember, OFFPRICE is here to help you any way we can during these tough times. We are dedicated to the wellbeing of our buyers and exhibitors alike. As always, we will strive to provide the best possible resources and customer service to enable the success of our OFFPRICE family. Please feel free to reach out to our Buyer Relations team if there is anything we can do to assist you further. Audrey Taylor, our Buyer Relations Manager is available to help you connect with vendors that meet your business’ individual needs. 


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