The Week Here: Human after all
9 Apr 2020
What happens when we view this time as an opportunity for businesses to build their resilience, and for communities to band together? Here are the need-to-knows in retail from this week.
“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat,” the late Karl Lagerfeld once said.
Well, consider us thoroughly routed, with loungewear emerging as “the defining [retail] trend” of the pandemic, according to market research platform Edited – who have also reported a rise in emails from retailers communicating animal prints following the premiere of that Netflix show.
With so many eyeballs glued to screens big and small, brands are focusing on formats like Instagram Live to engage with audiences, even if those views don’t necessarily immediately translate to sales. “This is not a time to push out a message. Listening to the community is the best course of action … it’s rare to get opportunities to be human,” said Katie Welch, CMO of Rare Beauty.
Hands-on beauty businesses have also rapidly found ways to innovate digitally; Bleach London is virtually hosting instructional Hair Dye Parties, and LA’s Olive & June is offering mani tutorials while doing brisk sales of their at-home kits. “You Probably Need a Haircut” is a FaceTime-enabled barbershop that connects out-of-work hairdressers with clients in dire need, evidenced by this review from a particularly satisfied customer: “You saved my life. My boyfriend looked hideous.”
An abundance of initiatives backing small ventures were also unveiled: from a financial and legal hotline for young entrepreneurs in France’s leather industry to e-commerce giant eBay’s “Up & Running” accelerator program aimed at helping the 70% of small businesses in the US who do not have an online presence. Shout out to New Yorker Kerby Jean-Raymond, founder of menswear label Pyer Moss, who started a $250,000 fund for small businesses owned and operated by women and minorities.
In a time of profound uncertainty, concepts like self-care and domesticity have taken on new – almost ritualistic – meaning. “There has been a shift in emphasis towards the home unsurprisingly,” said Natalie Kingham, fashion buying director at MatchesFashion, which has seen sales for accessories like scented candles double. And in the U.S., home scents and body oils were among the beauty segments that posted double-digit sales growth in an overall tough week for the industry.
“I think it gives people a sense of normalcy … fragrance serves to uplift people,” said Cat Chen, founder of Skylar, a natural perfume brand whose subscription-based Scent Club has managed – for the moment – to retain all of its members.
And what will become of the parallel online identities that normally brick-and-mortar businesses are cultivating? According to the Harvard Business Review, IRL experiences are crucial to longevity, noting that “many DTCs who have dabbled in at least some offline presence report customers who interact with their brand in the physical realm have lower merchandise return rates and more repeat customers than their online counterparts.”
In the words of Her Majesty, we will meet again.
Amy Tai is a creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.