The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing retailers throughout the world to close, and denim brands are doing what the rest of the world is doing: isolating. And like the millions of people that find themselves seeking safety at home, brands are turning to their online communities for connection.
With cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago ordering nonessential business like fashion retailers to close, and manufacturing coming to a halt in denim-making hubs like Pakistan and Bangladesh, the financial ramifications are being felt by brands big and small.
“COVID-19 has destroyed our business, our production in process and any hopes that this year would be a stable one for us,” said Beau Lawrence, founder of California-based Ace Rivington.
As a retailer himself who has had to close his Santa Barbara, Calif., location, he understands why other store owners are responding with extreme caution. “Protecting cash has to be the number-one initiative everyone is making right now,” he said.
As a result, Lawrence is preparing for cancelations. Leading up to California’s shelter-in-place mandate, the brand held a four-hour flash sale on the site, which he says generated enough funds to cover his staff’s pay for weeks to come.
“Some of our deliveries will be cancelled completely, some will slide and, honestly, some rad new opportunities will present themselves, too,” he said.
Also remaining cautiously optimistic is Joe Lafko, managing partner at Trinidad3 Jeans, who considers the L.A.-based denim brand to be in a good position thanks to its low overhead and minimal headcount.
The men’s brand hasn’t seen any cancelations just yet, though the situation has presented setbacks to its Spring 2020 e-commerce soft launch. “Everyone is going to feel a little heat no matter where they are on the spectrum,” he said.
Uncertain times are also presenting creative opportunities for connection, noted Ron Perilman, president of Liverpool Los Angeles. His team is currently reviewing a number of new marketing tactics, including incentivized marketing outreach for stores to deploy and social media marketing strategies for the Liverpool Jeans sales team.
“One account, whose store is currently closed like many others, just had a trunk show via Facebook Live and saw extremely successful results,” he said. “Times like these necessitate creativity. Demand will return and we want everyone to know they can turn to us for great product.”
Larger brands like Mavi are also bracing themselves for the future. Arkun Durmaz, the president of Mavi North America, describes a retail landscape that is essentially at a standstill. “Retailers are understandably continuing to determine their next steps, but realistically we expect them to cancel their remaining orders and fill in as needed as there’s more clarity on navigating this scenario,” he said, adding that there are some holds internally as well.
The brand, Durmaz said, has postponed the launch of its All Blue campaign for its most sustainable denim collection, as its attention and focus is on the global health crisis and its impact on employees, customers and families.
“We are still focusing on our usual channels but shifting our communications thoughtfully while we remain conscious of the crisis and mindful of what our customers want from us during this time, he said. “This is a sensitive moment that is bigger than any individual business, and we do not want to take any actions that will harm the brand or our relationship with our customers.”
Instead, brands big and small are using this lull in business to show their humanity and help their communities through the uncertain times.
Ace Rivington is shifting its focus to local charities, donating one meal to the Santa Barbara food bank for every $1 sold on the brand’s website while Lawrence’s children are out of school.
Similarly, Trinidad3 Jeans, a brand founded by and for veterans, is putting business on hold and shifting its focus to supporting veteran community Merging Vets & Players.
“We feel now isn’t the best time to blast everyone with ads,” he said. “We know there will come a time where we can resume business the way we’d prefer, but right now we need to be good humans and do what’s right for us all.”