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4 Key Takeaways from Earnshaw’s Back to Business Webinar

Last week, Earnshaw’s presented a masterclass for the Playtime show exploring the dynamics of getting back to business in our new, unprecedented reality. Wainscot Media’s Director of Marketing Emily Beckman was joined by Fred Schmidt, co-owner of 8 Oak Lane, Shade Critters and Nev & Lizzie; Janel Andersen founder of Bird & Bean; and Lisa Washington, owner of Taylor + Max Children’s Boutique. Here we share a few of the top takeaways from this discussion.

Elevating online presence is critical for attracting new business and retaining loyal customers.

This idea was fundamental to each panelist’s strategy, from updating websites and increasing newsletter frequency to elevating brand imagery. Schmidt said, “Instagram has become so important for retailers. As a vendor, we want to make sure that we’re taking great brand images. Photoshoots were very difficult to coordinate during the pandemic, but we found partners in other countries with lower caseloads and got some really beautiful shots.”

Emerging social media platforms like Tik Tok were of particular interest to Washington: “The eyes on Tik Tok are becoming more mature. Parents are also watching on that platform.”

Andersen plans to implement a model similar to Amazon, but more personalized. “We have to be Amazon, but cuter and more personal. Customers ultimately want to shop with small businesses. But if you consider a busy parent, they’re going to look for the fast and convenient.”

Trends are moving toward opposite ends of the spectrum.

As the panelists discussed how the pandemic impacted current trends and moods, two themes emerged: the desire for comfort and the resilience of special occasion. As the previous year’s ups and downs have changed dressing habits, the panelists acknowledged that loungewear and all-season styles here to stay. But, in a surprising twist, special occasion was a hot seller even in the depths of the pandemic winter. Andersen remarked, “I was hesitant before the holiday to go deep into that category. I kicked myself because people wanted these dresses. They are still doing holiday photos, particularly for little kids. I am bulking up my Easter and spring dresses because people want a reason to dress up.” Schmidt concurred, adding, “We launched Nev & Lizzie last fall, and we were very cautious and bought very light. We sold out. Stores were reporting that people were still dressing up for the picture even if they couldn’t gather for their celebrations.”

Enhancing business performance in these trying times requires a shift in priorities.

As they discussed navigating the current retail environment in these unprecedented conditions, panelists recounted their individual points of focus including new services, like curbside pickup, that will live on beyond the pandemic.

Washington spoke on the importance of delegation and seeking help when necessary. “I’m hiring consultants to fine-tune my business systems.”

Schmidt addressed the need for open communication to build a trustworthy business. “Our biggest focus internally has been communication with our retail partners and our sales teams to keep them informed and engaged. Our brands have about a hundred sales reps out on the road. To manage that, communication is necessary, but has been a tall order. You play part-time therapist, part-time sales coach. We are always shaping our voice and communication, not just with retailers and consumers but also our sales teams.”

Building strong community bonds has helped weather the storm.

We were encouraged to see so many discussions focused on community. “I see retailers as the new local hometown heroes. Communities embrace them and lift them up,” noted Schmidt. Along with the uplifting aspect of building community, panelists noted the strategic value of strong connections, not only with customers but also with other businesses.” As brands, we compete side-by-side every day at the shows. But at night, we break bread, not only with our retail partners but with other vendors. We need a healthy vendor environment,” said Schmidt. 

Washington agreed, describing how she benefits from her small business network locally and online. “It’s just a mindset of sharing rather than competing and keeping everything to yourself. There are multiple restaurants and gift shops in our area. We partnered with them to share databases and get in front of their customers to promote our services. On Instagram, we also connect with businesses that are related to ours. If someone has something cool, we will share it in our stories, or we’ll share contests or giveaways as well.”



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