Dutch fashion shops have been closed since mid-December. On Tuesday it became clear that the lockdown will continue for a few more weeks. What do entrepreneurs do during this period to stay in touch with customers? FashionUnited speaks to the e-commerce and marketing managers of Only for Men, Shoebaloo and Open32, who have actively drawn on their creativity over the past month – resulting in original initiatives.
Only for Men: customization at home
Given the circumstances, men’s fashion chain Only for Men is doing well, says Rens Drost, Marketing and E-commerce manager at the retail chain. The company anticipated the lockdown situation in good time and adapted its purchasing strategies. “Half of our offer is casual clothing. We have tried to scale that up as much as possible by increasing stocks and working well with suppliers. ” Turnover in dressed fashion has come under pressure, Drost sees. “You usually go out and buy new clothes for parties or other formal occasions, but there aren’t that many now.”
And yet, even in lockdown time, a neat suit is sometimes necessary – for a new job, for example, or in preparation for a wedding. To meet these men, Only for Men supplies tailor-made solutions at home for the time being. This is especially true for regular customers who also have a permanent fashion advisor in the store. “You want to be able to offer an extra service to customers with whom you have a good relationship,” says Drost. “For them we send one of our advisors out with fabric samples, linings, buttons, a series of passes for pinning and a laptop with sample images. All steps are taken together, just like in the store. Sometimes we also do this for casual customers. Usually we already know their measurements, and then we put a number of jeans in the car instead of fabric samples and buttons. ”
The rest of the store staff has started working on customer service, he says. “With their substantive fashion knowledge, they are a great help to us.” The logistics department also receives help from store employees and they are working hard on the website and social media channels. Drost hopes for recovery for the coming months. “The first quarter will undoubtedly be tough, but I think it will come off in the second half. Everywhere I see and hear references to a kind of ‘Roaring Twenties’ era, I am really looking forward to that. ”
Shoebaloo: order through the shop window
At shoe store Shoebaloo the idea was: if the customer cannot enter, we will bring the inside out. Shortly before Christmas, the shop windows of the shop on the Koningsplein in Amsterdam were covered with large posters of white shoe cabinets with the latest models on the shelves. Each pair of shoes has a QR code. When customers scan these, they’ll be taken to the Shoebaloo website – and can order their favorite pair right away.
“We wanted to show our products to customers despite the store closure,” says Diek van Tol, e-commerce manager at Shoebaloo. In addition to the shop windows, at 1 Koningsplein, Shoebaloo was also allowed to use the windows of the adjacent building, which is currently empty. In the evening and at night, the posters are illuminated from behind, so that the shoes are still clearly visible. “We still thought: will it really work? But it does, ”laughs Van Tol. The webshop has been doing ‘very well’ in recent months, but the posters give an extra boost to sales, he says. “And funnily enough, a lot of people shop there in the evening or at night.”
The windows of the Shoebaloo store in Rotterdam have now also been covered. Van Tol has received many enthusiastic reactions to the initiative, both from passers-by and fellow entrepreneurs. He says he hopes that the initiative will inspire other retailers to creative ideas. When the shops reopen, the posters will have to be removed, but they can stay for a while. “We would like to see what else we can do with it.”
Open32: Personal shop and delivery services
The Open32 webshop is also running fine, says Menno Dings, marketing manager of the B32 group. But online isn’t everything either. A number of extra services were therefore started up in December. For example, the retail chain offers a personal delivery service within a radius of 32 kilometers around the head office in Arnhem. “We wanted to relieve PostNL a bit, especially around the holidays,” says Dings. “And in this way, customers receive their products quickly.” That service is ‘highly appreciated’, he says. “Customers will receive a big smile from us for free!” It is also possible for customers to pick up orders themselves through a specially equipped drive-through at the logistics center of the chain, also in Arnhem. Dings: “Customers come from much further than 32 kilometers for this.”
Then there is a third service: video calling with a store employee, who gives the customer personal style advice from one of the physical stores. “We are a local hero in many places,” Dings explains. “We want to be able to show our face locally.” Customers can call their favorite store manager, who will guide the customer through the collection based on his or her wishes. Purchases are delivered to your home free of charge and contactless. “But people can also just call for a good conversation,” laughs Dings. “We like to stay in touch with customers.”
Customers can pay for their purchases afterwards via AfterPay. Open32 is the only offline retailer to offer this service in brick and mortar stores, Dings said. “In this day and age it is important to make things as easy as possible for the customer and to remove all barriers.”
Dings is currently working with the Open32 team to roll out more local delivery services for the coming weeks. Dings: “We do everything we can to keep bringing positivity.”
Homepage image: Open32
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