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Smoochie Baby

From bundle-and-save deals to an online sing-along series, here’s what this Brooklyn-based retailer is doing to survive Covid-19.

Smoochie Baby takes safety precautions—in style.

Since Covid-19 forced Smoochie Baby’s doors closed on March 20, founder Penelope Stipanovich has worked closely with her team to stay connected with customers from a distance. From bundle-and-save deals to an online sing-along series, here’s a closer look at Smoochie Baby’s Covid-19 strategy.

How’s business? Sales are down approximately 92 percent. Since closing our doors, we have put all of our efforts into driving traffic to our new and improved website, which was launched just one month before the closure. We are doing this by encouraging community engagement through Instagram and Facebook posts, stories and paid ads. We also just launched our new blog and started a weekly family sing-along. We have gone from getting an average of one web order per week to at least two orders per day. Some weeks are better than others!

Have you received government assistance? Not yet. Despite the $3 trillion the government allotted to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, we are among roughly 86 percent of small businesses in Brooklyn that have not yet received approval on our loan applications.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far? There are so many challenges. The most significant has been making our reasons for reaching out to our customers more personal. The timing of this closure was been really unfortunate for clothing retailers. Our spring/summer collection had just arrived in our stores. We almost immediately saw a decrease in sales starting as early as mid-February, as people started canceling their travel plans for spring break once news broke out about the coronavirus in China. It has definitely been challenging to find ways to get people to shop at a time of such uncertainty.

What have you done to move inventory? We formulated a two-fold plan. We are now offering a bundle-and-save option through our website, which offers our customer the option to purchase a complete ensemble at a discounted price. This allows us to move twice as much inventory while simultaneously offering our customer the deal they are looking for. We also decided to start running a promotion for 20 percent off to any new Instagram followers. This is something we’ve been promoting to our current followers in hopes of getting the word out to their friends and also through paid ads on Facebook. The way it works is they follow us on Instagram @smoochie_baby, send us a DM and we send them the discount code for 20 percent off their first purchase. This discount is good for a single use only. We also launched a weekly sing-along series and started a blog to better connect with customers on a personal level.

How did the concept for a sing-along series come about? It started when we decided to film a short video as we were closing our doors. As we did that, we realized how easy and impactful a short video could be in connecting with our community. We posted the video to our Instagram and received an amazing response full of gratitude and well wishes. This led us to a discussion of how we could, as a business, give back to our amazing community without financial burden in such an uncertain time for our business. Our store manger’s husband, Kyle, is a musician who has been performing at our annual Halloween and anniversary parties for years. He offered the suggestion of the family sing-along, and we felt it was perfect.

How have customers responded so far? Our first sing-along was on March 30, and it has taken place every Monday since. We suggest a $10 per household donation, but that’s not at all a requirement. Anyone can join! Kyle invites children to bring along their own instruments, and if an instrument is not available, he simply tells them to bring their hands. These 45 minutes Kyle spends playing along and interacting through Zoom can really give parents, who are running out of things do while quarantined with their kids, a little break. Our biggest turnout has been 15 attendees. The kids get really excited to see Kyle, who they recognize from our parties. Some of them are really avid Kyle fans! The excitement on their little faces is priceless. (Click here to view part of a sing-along performance.)

How do families donate? To make the donation, families are asked to visit our website. They can check out with just the sing-along, but the hope is that while they’re there, they will fall in love with our carefully curated collection and decide to purchase something else, too! A link to the Zoom sing-along is added to our Instagram bio every Sunday evening, alongside posts and stories. We also share the event on Facebook and Twitter. We usually get at least one web order during the sing-along. Kyle also promotes the event on his social channels, which has brought us a few new followers.

Besides the sing-along series, what other silver linings have come from this pandemic? We desperately wanted to build our online presence, but because our staff is so small, we never really had time to focus on it. The blog is another creative initiative we’ve wanted to launch for quite some time. Given the circumstances of the extreme decrease in business, our full-time store manager, Safiya, is now able to remain employed while developing this project that has been on our plate for years. We have all learned so many new skills: how to create a blog, how to run Facebook ads, etc. This time has allowed us to personally reach out to our customers through email, direct messaging and text messages, and we’re so humbled by the warm responses we’ve received. We feel this time has really solidified our place as a neighborhood staple.

What advice do you have for fellow retailers during this difficult time? Stay positive. Reinvent. Reach out to your customers. Personalize your approach. Do all that you can to set yourself apart from big box retailers. One thing we have done is include a handwritten note with every order, thanking the customer for their support  during this time and mentioning how every purchase directly effects our amazing staff at Smoochie Baby. Emily, the store manager and Kyle’s wife, personally delivers all web orders with a local shipping address. They are beautifully wrapped and include a special surprise, such as a small toy for the recipient’s child.

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