In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout, the businesses of young, emerging and independent designers are likely to be the most vulnerable. In a new series, FN will spotlight these creatives to learn how they are adjusting to a new way of working and living.
Having founded Ancient Greek Sandals in 2008, in the wake of Greece’s debt crisis, creative director and CEO Christina Martini and Nikolas Minoglou are no strangers to a challenging economic climate. “We’re already familiar with this sort of atmosphere,” Minoglou told FN.
He advocates that brands be flexible, reduce unnecessary costs, downsize a little, take care of cash flow and nurture their online business. The digital natives started their e-commerce channel shortly after launching the company.
A benefit of being a smaller business is that they can be more flexible, said Minoglou: “Bigger companies have bigger costs and [more] overhead.”
It doesn’t mean that things are easy for them though. Anything but. The biggest hit they took was the closure of their Athens store, which they did as a precaution two days before the Greek government directive.
The state is subsidizing the salaries of their employees, commercial rents have been reduced by 40%, and corporate tax has been frozen for three months. “That definitely helps,” he said, because the worst problem in these situations is cash flow.”
AGS is a summer-focused brand and does not produce a fall collection. Though they weren’t navigating fall buyer appointments, some retailers have still cancelled their high summer and pre-fall orders. “We are trying to find solutions,” said Minoglou, explaining that some people have asked for a longer time to make their payments. “We just have to work with them because we all need to survive,” he continued, adding that they have frozen some orders and production.
Their factory is still in operation but at reduced capacity to allow for safety precautions, such as increased space between employees. Similarly, they are starting to feel an effect on shipments because some of their hubs are closed. With commercial flights grounded, they can only ship via DHL.
When it comes to their e-commerce, they have seen a decline of around 25% compared to last year — less than they anticipated. However, Minoglou is the first to admit that there will be “a huge drop across the board if things continue,” he said.
They have seen an increase in one category, though: Sales of their classic slides are up by about 20%, said Martini, attributing the rise to the fact that people are buying them to wear indoors during their confinement.
“We have to really focus on the digital,” she said, explaining that Instagram has become the most important way to connect with the company’s audience. “We asked our customers what they wanted to see from us on our social media, and they said they wanted positive, aspirational images and holiday destinations like the Greek islands to give them something to dream about.” She added that they also wanted to be entertained.
AGS will run a competition with a holiday as the prize, which will go ahead once things go back to normal, and the company has just started a promotion where every order includes a surprise pair of shoes.
Martini is also looking to partner with a nail salon to give Instagram Live tutorials on how to do the perfect pedicure at home. The aim? To be beach-ready by the summer when the lockdown will likely end.
Now that’s something to look forward to.