In a new series, top leaders from across the footwear industry discuss the deep impact of the coronavirus and the challenging road ahead.
Badorf Shoe Company has spent decades building its children’s business around serving the needs of the independents with an in-stock strategy. It’s an approach that continues to give the company an edge as many retailers will are finding themselves in cash-strapped positions as the COVID-19 crisis continues.
“Cash flow will be the most important thing for these retailers,” said Brandon Gingerich, partner and director of sales for the Lancaster, Pa.,-based company, which offers its own line of infant and toddler shoes under the Footmates name, in addition to distributing Japanese brand Tsukihoshi. “They’re not going to feel comfortable bringing in hundreds of pairs at a time with the hope business will come back. But, they’re going to need to make sure they have shoes in the store and we provide them an opportunity to buy what they need when they need it.”
The company’s footwear, ranging from $38-$68, is also sold through Zappos and Nordstrom, and Gingerich said those stores can take advantage of its in-stock program.
In addition to its retail partners, the company operates an e-commerce site, which Gingerich stressed, is essential in presenting the brand’s story and full breath of product to consumers. “We’re not trying to compete with our retailers, but recognize we have to represent ourselves online so anyone looking to buy online and go to [our site], and see the whole assortment”.
Here, Gingerich discusses lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis and tactics for moving the company forward with more focused product offerings for spring ’21.
What should the industry do as a whole to survive this moment?
Brandon Gingerich: “Times like this require strong cooperation. Vendors will need to be patient in the handling of receivables and understand order revisions/cancellations will be necessary in the short-term. Retailers will need to find a way to make good on obligations so everyone can move forward together. This is a disruptive time for all companies, regardless of size, but we will overcome it well if we treat each other as partners.”
What can be learned from this experience?
BG: “This pandemic is shining a light on the importance of strong financials and, perhaps more importantly, the need for strong banking relationships with access to credit facilities. We’re finding many retailers that are historically profitable with great pay histories heavily reliant on vendor credit lines and without lines of credit or other facilities to ride out this financial storm. If retailers/vendors can learn from this and put these structures in place, going forward, they will be better positioned to handle business disruptions, maximize long-term profitability, and manage product flows.”
How are you supporting your employees during this event?
BG: “We had a meeting at the virus onset to let staff know no one was going to be let go or furloughed. We wanted to ease their minds from the start. We also halted all sales rep travel until further notice to ensure no one was putting themselves, or our customers, at risk.”
How are you working with your independent retail partners who are more vulnerable?
BG: “For 92 years, we’ve modeled our business around the independent retailer. They are our life-blood and we are doing everything we can to support them by being flexible and caring in our handling of receivables, discounts, waiving of fees, and allowing any/all order revisions necessary both now and for fall ’20. We are also doing all we can to ensure our products are maintained at MSRP with online partners to avoid ‘race to the bottom’ promotional activities. The goal is to allow our retail partners to get back open and on their feet and to provide stability to both the retailer and consumer.”
Where do you envision the industry in six months from now and what changes will we see?
BG: “I believe customer communication is going to need to change until concerns over virus spread subside. I have a difficult time envisioning reps traveling to stores this fall or trade show attendance being normal for at least six months. I envision a lot of remote customer meetings, use of our B2B, and sales presentations being necessary and could see some additional flexibility, from vendors, being required on new item receipts as retailers may not be able to physically see a product until they receive it. I also don’t believe the retailer is going to have an appetite for new product risk and I can see us reducing new product offerings for Spring ’21 to allow a focus on core product so retailers can get their stock back in-line.”