If much of the retail industry is feeling squeezed by the coronavirus pandemic, outdoor apparel may be especially hard hit.
“It’s been kind of a mix,” Jeff Johnson, co-founder of outerwear brand The Arrivals, said on the Glossy Podcast. “Sales, even traffic, has been lower.”
Johnson still manages to find positives. The company’s main sales season runs from August to January or February — this year, that was before the pandemic was declared. And while the average order value has gone down, he said, order numbers are up. In other words, within a smaller group of online visitors, more people are making actual purchases.
“For the last two weeks, we’ve seen a 2x spike in conversion,” Johnson said.
He talked about how the company is crowd-sourcing the apparel design process, how it’s changing its communications and why he’s thankful that The Arrivals didn’t end up opening a flagship store just before the pandemic.
Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Dodging a physical retail bullet
“The doors [of the pop-up] closed this February — the spring-summer is almost our off-season — and they will reopen in August. And now we’re just sitting in a place of, ‘Wow, thank goodness we didn’t change our strategy to have a permanent flagship.’ And it’s not only from a revenue or liability standpoint, but it’s also thinking of the whole team and going through so many pain points. There’s no way to plan for that.”
A great design idea could come from outside the company
“How are we keeping the design process going, when I can no longer see a sample and work through a physical product with my team? That, for us, is one of these initial pieces that’s super fascinating about how we’re collaborating internally. Because these tools can be accessed from anywhere, is there an opportunity to broaden? This is our internal design team, but could there actually be a design community? Could we potentially, because there’s no physical barrier to entry, open up a design dialogue with our community? Could we open up a Slack channel and invite individuals — have various threads about innovating material, various locations and needs for product categories; almost democratize the design process? That’s one thing we’ve been super curious about.”
Luxury may be in for tougher times
“Right now there’s a shared sense of frugalness, with the uncertainty that everyone is experiencing, being thoughtful about what they’re investing in right now. That being said, I foresee luxury having a potential hard time depending on how long we experience this. But I do think the consumer habits that we’ve been tracking thus far [indicates that] people still need stuff. They’re purchasing less and from brands that I think have a mission and an identity that [customers] align with.”