Before the pandemic, a trend was forming among hip DTC brands with a primarily online audiences. Rather than opening stores to move product and bring in revenue, companies like maternity brand Hatch had been opening stores more as event spaces, with limited inventory and a focus on community building and regular events.
When the pandemic began, in-person indoor events went out the window, but many of those brands were able to maintain at least a part of their vision by moving things outdoors, to sidewalks or rooftops. But with the winter months fast-approaching, that lifeline can only work for a limited time.
Many brands don’t have a strong plan in place for the winter, and are either considering virtual-only events or just hoping that indoor events are safe by the time the temperature drops.
“Events have historically been a significant part of our business, and post-COVID, we’re finding new, alternative models to keep them going,” said Sarah Benady, CEO of fashion brand Ba&sh. “For example, hosting events outdoors or offering appointment slots to keep to an intimate number of attendees at one time. We’ve also tried setting up virtual events showing how to style our newest pieces, [filmed] inside our stores — we then offer a complimentary messenger service to deliver the orders to clients.”
Ba&sh’s Friday happy hour events have been a staple of the brand since it opened its first New York store in 2018, but those events have had to go virtual. For example, on a recent Friday, the brand debuted its fall collection via over an Instagram Live session featuring Cristina Cuomo.
But being able to also host outdoor events has helped keep things interesting, said Benady. She said Ba&sh has been doing private events outdoors. Most recently, the team set up racks of newly released styles in a VIP client’s backyard for their friends to have a private shopping experience.
Data from EventMB said that nearly 40% of organizers said digital events bring in less engagement than in-person events.
But for the colder months, brands that do events don’t have a lot of great options. Hatch, for example, is not planning any outdoor events for the winter and will instead shift all of its focus to digital events, according to a representative from the brand. Benady said Ba&sh will try to host events in warm weather climates — like near its Miami and Los Angeles stores — for as long as possible. But its New York shoppers will have to settle for virtual events. Other brands are simply hoping for the best, especially when it comes to larger events like New York Fashion Week.
NYFW was only able to happen this year because of the possibility of outdoor events. Spring Studios reportedly gave brands an extremely favorable rate to show on the rooftop and no officially sanctioned CFDA show took place inside. If things aren’t better by February, that might not be a possibility.
“[Winter] is definitely going to present a lot of challenges,” said Rebecca Minkoff, who just held her NYFW show on the Spring Studios rooftop. “I’m just hoping that, by February, more are immune to this and we can do events indoors. If not, maybe we’ll have to move to a warmer climate. We’re having discussions about this right now internally.”