Diary of an agent from: The UK part 2
24 July 2020
Since COVID-19 life has changed for everyone. I am hoping that working as a fashion agent I will be able to take some positivity from the situation and become an even more dependable asset for my customer base.
Nearly every trade show has been cancelled this season and many of my clients are reporting that they will not be prepared to travel to the big cities to attend appointments in crowded showrooms and hotels.
Therefore my ability to be able to get out on the road every day with a van full of short order brands, forward order collections and accessories (not forgetting my hand sanitizer and face mask!) will surely help me to strengthen my relationships with customers and help to, slowly but surely, rebuild business for everyone!
Initially I am unsure how best to begin visiting customers? Do I ring them to try and make an appointment or do I just call in to say hello? I don't want to appear 'pushy' or look like I'm trying to take orders during the first few weeks as I am well aware that my retail customers will have shops full of stock from before lockdown and placing new orders will be that last thing on their minds for a few weeks.
Therefore, I opt to simply call in and see customers 'unannounced' and take them as I find them!
The first account that I visited is situated in a small Cotswold town. They reported that trade had been good for the first few days and although footfall was down, the actual spend per head was far higher and so they had been pleased with the reaction so far.....they did comment that customers were
spending on casual outfits and that more formal 'occasionwear' brands were not performing and were having to be reduced.
As I walked through the town you would have thought it was a 'normal pre-covid 19 day . Cafes and coffee shops seemed busy and there even seemed to be a few 'international' tourists wandering around. The only visible signs of anything different was an increase in the numbers of outdoor tables and chairs and drinks collection points for cafes situated on the pavement and a more visible presence of face-masks being worn!
The reaction was not so positive from my next customer, again situated in a small market town. Her first week open after lockdown had been particularly busy but it had slowed dramatically in the following weeks and she had seen virtually no-one that morning.
I spoke to a customer in west Wales who was very 'upbeat' on the phone but told me that she had seen no customers for the last three days. The Welsh restriction on travel outside a 5 mile radius was having a major impact on business as many customers needed to travel further to visit their favourite retailers.
Over the course of the week I visited several customers and got mixed reactions regarding how busy they had been and how they had dealt with re-opening their stores. Some were running an 'appointment only' system to allow customers to feel confident instore knowing they were able to shop safely on their own.
Other stores were mixing 'personal shopping' appointments with an 'open door' policy. It became apparent as I visited different stores that it is a real juggling act for retailers and very difficult to make sure you can allow your regular customers the
option to shop in confidence on their own in a safe environment, but at the same time not missing out on any passing 'walk-in' customers by having a 'locked' door.
Their is no proper 'right way or wrong way' to deal with the situation and retailers are having to 'think on their feet' and adapt quickly to the ever-changing situation.
Most seemed cautiously optimistic and hopeful that, providing we don't get a second 'spike' and lockdown, they will manage to fight through this and come out the other side.
I had a great conversation with one of my older customers told me that she had survived much worse than this as she had lived through the war!
She told me 'I survived the war and I'm not going to let this beat me', her only concern was that during the war she told me that 'we knew who we were fighting' and she commented that 'I can't see this enemy' but 'I'm still here and won't let this virus defeat me!'
Hopefully we can all take something from her determined approach and fight on as best we can over the coming weeks!
Photo credit: https://www.pexels.com/@burst