How 3 Resilient Retailers Adapt to Change During COVID-19
As Lightspeed's vice president of marketing, I’ve seen firsthand how our retail clients are constantly adapting to an ever-changing industry.
When e-commerce emerged, retailers went online. When online shopping was said to overtake brick-and-mortar, they responded with unique and creative in-store experiences and targeted marketing. Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re setting a precedent for how independent retailers can adapt when the unthinkable happens.
Even with temporarily empty streets and vacant sales floors, retailers haven’t gotten caught up in the numbers. Instead, they’re staying true to their resilient nature and adapting to another change in an unpredictable industry.
Ruti: Putting the Relationship Before the Sale
Ruti is a top ready-to-wear boutique with 10 stores across the United States. Known for its opt-in facial recognition system and personal styling, Ruti had to pivot to virtual appointments quickly when its stores closed.
I spoke to Ruti's Chief Technology Officer Sharon Segev and gained insight on how the brand redesigned its business model to accommodate a need to go online.
“The way we see it is we always understood digital is part of the game,” said Segev. “It’s more accelerated than we planned, but generally we believe this is the future of retail.”
By pivoting quickly, Ruti has enabled all 30 of its stylists to continue working full time, and Segev said there are no plans for layoffs. Ruti's customers are also noticing this people-first mission.
“Everybody is very appreciative when they see that we’re trying to survive," said Segev. "We're trying to keep our routine because we don’t know how long this will last.”
In the middle of a complex time for businesses, Ruti's mind-set was simple: “We need to meet customers where they are instead of them coming to us.”
Lorena Saravia: Supporting a Community Through Commerce
Saravia is an advocate for human rights in Mexico and — like many other resilient retailers — was also quick to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. As a community-minded business owner, she decided to release a collection of T-shirts, donating 100 percent of the profits to purchasing much-needed supplies for hospitals responding to the pandemic.
Ruti and Lorena Saravia shared a collective vision in an isolating and uncertain time. Instead of focusing on the sale, they shifted their attention to the people that have supported their businesses over the years.
“People are worried about their lives, about their loved ones, about their jobs, not necessarily about their next dress," said Segev. "One big thing to understand is that this is where people are in their lives.”
Off The Hook: Responding to Regulations With a New Collection
Montreal’s Off The Hook is one of our local streetwear retailers. Selling high-end brands, Off The Hook is known for its modern vibe and regularly hosts in-store events.
One of the first stores in Montreal to close on March 16, pivoting online was necessary for Off The Hook. The retailer quickly adapted to this “new normal” and teamed up with designer Laurent Faker. Encouraging people to stay inside, Off The Hook released a limited-edition capsule collection aptly titled “Stay Home: 2020” featuring a sweat-suit and T-shirts, all branded with the collection’s name.
"We've worked hard to encourage people to stay at home, while offering something that can keep our Off The Hook customers connected," said Harry Drakopoulos, boutique owner of Off The Hook. "This collection does just that. We're all in this together and we're staying positive through this."
No strangers to change, independent business owners have been adapting to a new normal. While Lightspeed’s looking forward to brick-and-mortar doors reopening, it’s been inspiring to see how these retailers are weathering the storm.
Lory Ajamian is the VP of Marketing at Lightspeed, the leading point of sale provider for independent retailers, online merchants, and restaurateurs. Graduating from McGill University with a degree in Mathematics and Statistics, Lory has a decade of experience in sales operations, data, and lead generation.