When Sarah Flint switched to a direct-to-consumer business model two years ago, the designer couldn’t have predicted the industry’s current situation. But the move has put her in the best possible position to weather the pandemic’s financial effects.
“There has been a lot of uncertainty. People aren’t able to go to work or celebrate occasions and we make footwear that is for those things,” said Flint in a phone interview. “It’s been scary, but I think there’s still a lot of hope.”
Though she has seen a significant drop in sales and longer shipment windows, Flint said she is still able to complete orders to customers due contingency planning. She added that while many companies have more than half of their businesses with department stores, being online-only has been a blessing.
“We did anticipate this so we made changes early on,” she said. “We stopped boating our [made-in-Italy] product and aired it over to get spring in.”
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The Meghan Markle-favored brand is also still planning to launch new product for fall. “Italy usually takes the month of August off and it looks like they will be working through that month now, which is going to be a saving grace,” said Flint. “We should be in time for fall production. It is really important as we’ve seen that newness gets people excited.”
Flint’s main focus, however, is immediate business preservation. Her priority, she said, is to keep her company intact, which means no lay-offs or furloughs for her 27-person team.
“We’ve made a lot of cuts and changes to budgets because our team is the most important thing,” said Flint. “We are all close. We really banded together through this. We have a Zoom call every day at 9 a.m. We are committed to come out of this stronger and I believe we can do that.”
That sentiment has carried over into her conversations with consumers as well. Flint is steadfast on remaining optimistic, honest and open. “Try to do what you can to bring joy at time that isn’t really joyful. My customers have really responded to that,” she said, noting a shift in consumer messaging.
For instance, Flint was looking forward to launching a bridal pump in honor of her June wedding. Like many, she had to postpone her own celebration, and instead of cancelling the launch, she changed her dialogue on social media to remain sensitive and relevant with the times. Plus, she’s used her platform to give back, donating tens of thousands of dollars to two hospitals in the Lombardy region of Italy, and gifting more than 400 pairs of her shoes to women working on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“I’m eternally optimistic,” she said. “I wouldn’t have started this business and gotten to where I am if I wasn’t. There were so many times I could have thought this was it. We’ve been through challenging times before so I believe these moments can make you make better decisions and force you to be leaner and scrappier. That’s what we are going to see here.”
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