‘We are a group of fashion retailers asking for dialogue’: an open letter to suppliers

A group of independent fashion retailers – Boutiques in Business – is calling for suppliers to open their communication channels now to save the entire supply chain…

Dear suppliers,

This is an incredibly worrying time for so many people and for so many reasons. The coronavirus crisis is a matter of life or death for some, which of course takes precedence over any anxieties about businesses or the economy. But as a group of independent fashion retailers, we are trying to find solutions and come up with contingency plans for our businesses.

Boutiques in Business was set up long before  COVID-19 emerged as a collective of like-minded individuals all wanting to find some support within a business that seemed to be presenting more challenges than answers. Saving our high streets is now a well-recognised phrase. Why? Because it is changing, evolving and in some instances dying.

Joining together and sharing best practice has already seen a lot of positive actions and feedback within our group. However, COVID-19 and its immediate challenges are, naturally, now at the forefront of our discussions.

As boutique owners our immediate worries relate to if and when we will eventually re-open our businesses. (Let’s all hope it’s a when and not an if). Let’s assume, for arguments sake, that we are allowed to re-open our shops by mid-June. These are our main concerns:

1. How will people react when we are out of lockdown?

Will the population have carefree abandon and feel a strong desire to socialise or will they be wary and stick to their own social distancing rules of ‘essential’ visits out only? Or, will social distancing still be enforced by the government?

2. What will the unemployment figures be?

We are seeing small and large businesses closing daily, so what state will our country be in after the crisis? Or the world for that matter? 

3. Will the country be in recession?

4.. How many of our fellow boutique owners will be at the stage of liquidating their SS20 stock, at highly reduced prices, to simply put money in their banks?

As a group we are discussing ways that we can help charitable causes when we eventually return to work with donations and fund raisers rather than simply discounting. Perhaps we could do that as an entire industry? 

5. How many of our suppliers will also attempt to liquidate their SS20 stock out of desperation and flood the market with highly reduced prices?

6. How many of us will be able to say that our suppliers stood shoulder to shoulder with us and valued our partnerships – not only through the good times, but through the worst of them?

7. Will we still have businesses when the AW20 season begins? 

When we can re-open our shops, will our businesses be full of SS20 stock that has no value? When new stock is delivered, will the market have returned? Will we have any money in the bank to pay for it? Will our suppliers even be in business?

8. And then there’s buying for the SS21 season. Will be have stored our SS20 stock or been forced to liquidate it? 

Will we still forward order at all?

At this stage, there are simply too many ‘ifs’ to ask any more questions. The business we are in has a supply chain and everyone is part of that chain.

Manufacturer.

Supplier.

Retailer.

End User.

If we do not start talking to each other now and working out a contingency plan, the headlines we are seeing that state The fashion market is in free fall and will be devastated’ could become a reality.

We are a group of fashion retailers and we are asking for dialogue. We are trying to find solutions that suit all – not just the retailer or the supplier.

To date, the response we’ve received from suppliers has been varied. Some are listening with an open mind but some aren’t. The phrase ‘we are all in this together’ isn’t just a sound bite – it’s a fact.

As retailers we need and are asking for a dialogue. This is bigger than one retailer and one supplier: it’s our whole business and the entire industry that is at risk.

Boutiques in Business, a group dedicated to supporting our whole supply chain through this pandemic, needs communication from other parties in order to effect the change we all need.

This is an opportunity for all to work together – genuinely work together – and not simply just state empty words. 

Let’s start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.

E: boutiquesinbusiness@hotmail.com 

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash