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.
Freda Salvador, the women’s shoe label known for its handcrafted made-in-Spain footwear, is forging ahead during the coronavirus crisis.
Like many, the 29-person company shuttered its New York and California stores through the end of March to help stop the spread of COVID-19, which has already impacted business, said co-founder Megan Papay. She also noted a dip in online sales.
“The silver lining in this whole thing has been that the dialogue with our customer has always been super important as well as creating community,” she said. “It’s such a core part of the brand.”
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In the midst of the pandemic, Papay, who launched the California-based brand with Cristina Paloma Nelson in 2012, said she has been preparing for this over the past weeks.
“This wasn’t the biggest shock. We’ve been proactive by putting plans in place,” she said. “Our business is in Italy and Spain and we’ve stayed in close contact with them.”
While one aspect of challenges comes from the lack of consumer purchasing during unstable times, Freda Salvador could also face production problems as manufacturing is currently at a halt in Spain, and in Italy, where they source materials.
Papay said, “Factories are closed. Part of our problem is we have raw materials and purchase orders that we’ve been planning so once the factory opens, they can pick up where they left off. But it’s going to be interesting to see how long it’ll take to get to future orders.”
In the meantime, the brand is focusing on connecting with its audience through social channels and its own website through curated content online. Freda Salvador is also enticing shoppers with a 20% off sale site-wide. In addition, $5 of every sale will go to the Feeding America food banks, which is equivalent to 10 meals.
Plus, to stay connected to their consumer, the company is launching a Facebook group called “Freda Forum” to help start dialogues on various topics.
Right now, Papay added that the most obvious support comes from buying products from their online channel, but also she said, “more importantly, consumers can spread the word about our brand and other small businesses they love. It’s just not our problem; it’s spreading awareness about small business everywhere.”