It’s safe to say COVID-19 has brought many changes to our lives. Entire industries have been deeply affected, including the retail industry. The industry has had to make significant changes, permanent and temporary, to be able to compete and continue to turn a profit, all while making the experience positive and safe for customers. It’s evident that brands needed to swiftly adapt to new marketing platforms, business models and offerings, in order to stay above water.
Now that retail stores in Denver are allowed to reopen their doors (with restrictions), we checked in with a few local brands to see how they’re doing in the current times.
False Ego Founder and CEO, Jevon Taylor has had to make adjustments and learn quickly in order to stay connected to his customer base during COVID-19. First, he had to shift to a completely online model for sales, but perhaps more importantly, False Ego was also no longer able to host its monthly community events. These community events were not only important for brand awareness but also kept the community connected, which is extremely important to Taylor. Now that restrictions have started to ease, Taylor explained that being able to meet in person again opens a lot of doors for the brand and allows them to jumpstart the plans that were put on hold during COVID-19 shutdowns.
Though False Ego’s community events were impacted by the pandemic, Taylor wanted to make sure his audience still felt connected to the brand. He explained, “after the initial shock of COVID, we really dialed in on still staying consistent on social media and making sure we continued to be a resource for our community and maintain relationships with partnering companies and our supporters.”
Despite the impacts on his business, Taylor was able to find a bit of a silver lining. “Overall it gave me the opportunity to step back and actually analyze the bigger picture. Where I was with the company and where I want to go going forward, which was a huge blessing. Prior to that, we had so much going on, it was hard to make time for future planning. It really taught me the importance of working ON the business and not always IN the business.”
This pause allowed Taylor to create more structured content with more intent behind each post and more of a strategy. Currently, the brand is using its social platforms to amplify Black voices in the community by sharing their stories and what it’s to be a Black creative or a Black leader in Denver.
On the product side, Taylor hasn’t changed much about his offerings and has been spending more time on improving quality and sourcing domestically. For example, False Ego’s roll top bags are now 100% constructed, designed and embroidered in Colorado.
Throughout the uncertainty of the last few months, Taylor is grateful for the incredible amount of support from the Denver community. “We are reaching new levels each month and I give a lot of credit to our community; connecting to our mission, continuing to show up for us in any way they can. It’s a beautiful thing to have such a loyal community, built with so many organic connections.”
As the brand celebrates its second anniversary this month, Taylor is optimistic. False Ego is “building an amazing community and just scratching the surface of what is to come for us.” He wants Denver to know that everyone votes with their dollars, and if they want things to change, it starts with the brands they support.
Outside of the support of the brand, Taylor was inspired to see Denver take on a leadership role with a lot of current issues at hand. From racial injustice to protests to handling a global pandemic. “Colorado is an extremely special place and I’ve been extremely inspired to never let this flame die and direct the energy that’s here towards initiatives that will create changes for generations after us. It all starts with us, we are the future of whatever is to come.”
GLENN AND GLENN
Since all of its retailers closed doors back in March, Boulder-based, sister-owned apparel line GLENN + GLENN has had to rely solely on its website which has become its only sales channel. Accustomed to spending plenty of time together in person, the sister duo were forced to shift their working style to Zoom and FaceTime conversations to discuss fabrics, patterns, and plans to navigate the uncharted waters of business during and after COVID-19. As sisters, mothers and business owners, they understood all of the unique situations and proper precautions they needed to take.
“More than ever, we want to connect with our customers by creating a sense of togetherness and community,” they commented. As a family-owned and run business, the sisters understand the importance of staying in touch with family members and co-workers to create a different sense of community.
Though COVID required Hilary and Jillian to drastically reduce the exposure of their brand, they are confident that as their retailers’ doors begin to open, they will be there to support their customers. “[This time] really has forced our focus toward connecting with our community and relating to our customers.”
The biggest pivot the brand has made is into the design and production of face masks, or what they like to call “Maskies.” They source excess fabric and sample remnants from previous collections to create masks for women, men and kids. “These are difficult seas to weather for families who are all sailing in different ships and we wanted to provide solutions,” the sisters said. To further provide support to families struggling through tough times, 25% of mask sales will go to the Emergency Family Assistance Association in Boulder. The EFAA provides support to families battling COVID-19 complications.
The sisters have also looked to other business owners for support and ideas. “For as much as we are home alone, it seems like we’ve met and connected with many business owners to brainstorm creative solutions from surviving financially, to how they are handling logistics. What were once strictly business relationships, have now grown into more personal relationships as we all share so much empathy for small businesses.”
“It is incredible to see how companies are adapting to make life better for everyone by doing what they do best. The atmosphere of kindness has exploded and we hope this continues for years to come.”
Larmier Square women’s boutique Hailee Grace had to make a massive shift onto their digital platforms when they were required to close their doors. Since then, they’ve made several changes, from scheduling private shopping appointments to shifting their business model to put “a bigger emphasis on Instagram, which has helped a lot” commented owner Grace Buttorff.
Hailee Grace has also added a few new products — masks and hand sanitizer. Masks are adjustable, machine-washable, and available in on-trend colors and prints. They sell for $18 and 20% of the proceeds go toward the Denver COVID fund.
For customers that are not yet ready to shop in-store, a few new options are available — curbside pickup, Denver-area deliveries and moving 90% of their in-store offering online and updating their website to be more user-friendly and shoppable.
Hailee Grace is also relying heavily on Instagram for most of their promotion, and offer daily flash sales to drive different products onto the store’s Instagram story.
All of these new offerings will be available for the foreseeable future. “We have had an incredible response from our customers and communities,” said Buttorff, “including people buying gift certificates to support us and re-posting their support on social media. It’s inspiring to see this love and support without [customers] even buying anything.”
Hailee Grace is now open for any shoppers that miss the thrill of in-store shopping. The staff at Hailee Grace is taking all proper precautions as mandated by the city. Buttorff looks forward to the entire Denver community opening up, “when the time is right to keep everyone safe. Retail isn’t retail without the restaurants and other businesses opening up too. We cannot wait for that day to come!”
Judith & Joe
RiNo boutique Judith & Joe has a new offering that didn’t exist before and it’s here to stay — apparel subscription boxes. These boxes bring a selection of product, based on style preferences, directly to the customer’s door. Pieces are selected by an in-house stylist after the customer fills out an online style quiz including their style likes and dislikes, color palette and the aspect of sustainability most important to them.
The team from Judith & Joe is inspired by the Denver community and how people have come together to show support. “The Denver boutique community has always been tight-knit and transparent, but the way we’re sharing information and coming together during this time is really nice. We all want each other to succeed.”
Though they miss being face-to-face with customers, they appreciate social media in this time, as it “has become so much more important to us in connecting with our customers,” the team said. Judith & Joe values customers immensely, noting that their “customers have really shown up to remind us that we matter in their lives — which it can be easy to forget about when you’re in the trenches trying to build your business.”
As for the future for Judith & Joe, they look forward to continuing to build the subscription service and safely welcoming customers back into the store. They’ve missed their neighbors and the joy they bring into the shop.