Hello, La Robe Shopper!
Today, we’re going to dive into the nitty-gritties of what this Covid-19 pandemic has been doing to us family owned businesses and what the future has in store for us as we rebuild along with the rest of the world. The topic of the Coronavirus has been one that raises the hair on the backs of all of our necks lately and, rather than run from it, we’re going to crack open the clam shell of our personal experience with it. We suppose it all started in March of 2020…
(insert wavy lines as a transition to a flashback and cue music)
La Robe’s home base is located in Mobile, Alabama which, as it turns out, is a very lucky place to be during these uncertain times. We were far enough away from the major hot spots that the state of Alabama was able to stave off its first confirmed case until March 13th. Mobile specifically wasn’t affected until March 19th. This gave us plenty of time to do… well, not a whole lot. A hurricane is one thing; you can pack up your life and flee the coast with your family and loved ones, wondering what will be waiting for you once you return. A pandemic is a little different, as the entire world has had the misfortune of learning recently. You can’t run from it, you can’t board up your windows against it, all you can do is everything in your power to prevent it from spreading.
Our first priority has always been and will always be our employees. Without our wonderful staff, we would be lost. After a meeting of the owners, the staff was all given the opportunity to take leaves of absence for their own safety and a lot of our employees took that opportunity, leaving even smaller skeleton crews behind to try and keep us all above water. It was a scary time for us as a company, but we had hope that we would be able to get through it.
Until we didn’t.
Our governor placed the stay at home order on us only seven days later and we were forced to close our doors until May 1st, 2020. It doesn’t seem like such a long time, but to a family owned business who depends on their stores being open, it could have been seven years of lock down. Not a day went by where we didn’t worry about our finances, about whether or not we would be able to afford to bring employees back after the state reopened. Luckily we still had this store, our virtual store, to help us get through those darker times. If it hadn’t been for the sales we were still able to make through our website, we’re not sure what kind of situation we would be in today. We had acted fast enough on behalf of our employees that none of our La Robe family caught the Coronavirus and, once the state reopened, it was business as usual!
Except it wasn’t.
We’re sure you’ve noticed a lot of new merchandise popping up on our site lately, especially since you’ve been looking at the same dresses and sweaters for months now. There’s a reasonable explanation for that one, ladies and gentlemen! Just because Mobile was healing, just because Alabama was feeling better, that didn’t mean everyone was healthy. The rest of the country still had huge sections that were getting worse by the day! California, New York, Georgia - all places where our designers live and work - were still shut down, which meant our inventory wasn’t going to be replenished for quite some time. We had just overcome what we thought was going to be the hardest part of the pandemic (closing our doors) only to be welcomed by what was actually the hardest part of the pandemic.
Shipping was a nightmare. All of the orders we had placed for the spring seasons were being delayed, some orders were even cancelled due to the production process being shut down. Our brick and mortar La Robe stores were running on a handful of out of season designs and prayers. Even though Alabama had given us and others like us the green light to reopen, our lack of new and exciting inventory was having us question whether or not we should have, which is never a question a small business owner wants to ask themselves.
Fear was the fire that danced around our stores, threatening to burn them to the ground and our hopes along with them. While the business side was back up and running, the traffic in our stores was non-existent and we understood why. No one was wanting to shop for clothes - and who could blame them? Even we were afraid of going to the grocery store! Each store employee was armed with masks, gallons to hand sanitizer, Lysol, gloves, the works to ensure each and every single person that entered through our doors were safe and protected. It didn’t matter - everyone was too afraid.
As more and more of the country healed, our designers opened up and began fulfilling our orders. While most were orders we couldn’t accept anymore because the fashion industry is already moving into Fall, we were still able to pick up some of our top selling items (like our denim!) and it was enough to add back that spring in our steps that we had lost. We can officially report that we are back where we wanted to be!
We only have you to thank for that. We know, that sounds really cheesy, but we’re being honest. If it hadn’t been for our online sales pulling us through those couple of months, we might not be sitting here writing this blog post today. While the threat of a second wave looms overhead, we’ve regained the ability to brainstorm about future endeavors, planning fun things for the website, and even more fun things for this blog!
Thanks for sticking with us through this - all of this. It means so much to us that we have such loyal customers. We will find a way to show our appreciation one day and that day will be magnificent! Now, a question for reflection:
How were your lives affected by the pandemic and in what ways did those effects help you grow?
The Girls of La Robe