Our New Normal: 10 Changes To Doing Business In The Midst Of A Pandemic

Recently, I was helping a long time customer in our dressing room area.  For the past several years, we have offered complimentary bottled water and coffee to our customers.  With the financial hardship that Covid19 presented to my business, I have avoided non-necessary expenses.  My customer questioned me on why I didn’t have the water available like I usually do.  Not wanting to get into a conversation about finances, I  simply told her I was out of water.  She was visibly frustrated; she expected the water.  She then went on to mention other changes she noticed in the store.  I made my excuses and tried to keep the conversation positive.

This whole experience got me thinking.  This customer seemed unaware that it was unrealistic to expect things to be as they always had been. It occurred to me that maybe she didn’t know…because no one had told her…how this pandemic has changed things for businesses and how we are all operating under some form of new normal.  I thought it might be helpful to share some changes you might be seeing here in our stores and offer some explanations for them.

  1.  Covid related safety equipment: This change is familiar to most of us.  With the increase in cases all over the country, many businesses, including mine, have added screens at the counter, hand sanitizing stations, temperature checks, rules that employees must wear masks, social distancing floor decals, and extra cleaning.  Additionally, because it is impossible for us to help our customers and maintain 6 feet of distance, we offer free masks and ask that our customers wear a mask.  You might find some of these changes frustrating, as screens limit counter space and masks can be an inconvenience, but we here at Fashion Crossroads Inc. believe that the health and safety of our staff and customers is of vital importance.  We have also found a very good triple layer cloth mask that is made by one of our Canadian vendors.  It sells here in the store for $12, and it fits comfortably while still allowing you to breathe easily.
  2. Fewer perks: As I mentioned in my opening story, I have had to cut down on non-essential expenses.  This means you might have noticed fewer rewards coupons in the past several months or the lack of extras, like coffee cups for the coffee maker.  As everything recovers, I am slowly adding all of these things back…I bought bottled water this week SMILE.  If you have shopped with us within the last several months, your coupons are coming! FC Outlet customers will get a coupon in September and Fashion Crossroads customers will get one in October.  In the mean time, you will still be receiving your earned rewards that you get for spending $200.
  3. Less inventory: Due to the abrupt shut down of our state, I had to make some changes in my inventory.  We received about 80% of our normal spring/summer inventory so the store feels a bit empty right now as a result.  The great news is our new fall from Charlie B, Tribal, and French Dressing will begin arriving next week, so we will soon be full up again!
  4. Changes in inventory flow: Our clothing markets, like all other large events, have been cancelled.  All of the inventory that I order 6 months ahead of time is guaranteed, but the inventory that we usually buy at market will all need to be purchased in other ways.  This will mean that vendors will have to come to the store for me to make an inventory purchase or I will need to buy online.  Sadly, not all vendors have travelling sales people or online capacity.  You may find that it takes longer for me to re-stock on items we carry or I may not even have some of your favorite brands.    If this happens, be sure to let me know.  If there is any way I can order for you, I will.  Additionally, many vendors are behind due to being shut down or to supply disruptions of goods made in countries hard hit by the virus like China.  As a result, some vendors are pushing the inventory shipping dates back.  Please be patient with these changes, as this is an evolving situation.
  5. Low supply of coins: Covid 19 has seriously disrupted the supply of coin and as a result the Federal Reserve has limited the amount of change it sends to banks.  We are trying to stay ahead of this situation by buying extra change rolls.  So far, we have been able to get all the change we have needed.  I have heard of other businesses, however, not being so lucky.  There may come a time when paying with cash might be a challenge.
  6. Smaller than usual staff: I have been fortunate to maintain most of my staff, but I am staffing the store a little differently to respond to a decrease in traffic.  I know many businesses are in the same situation, doing the same work with fewer employees. This may mean that it takes longer for me to respond to your emails, comments on social media or to messages via Messenger.  Please know, your communications are very important to me.  If you don’t get a quick response to a question, please call the store at 307-237-9221.
  7. Changes in vendor offerings: The financial impact of Covid19 hit all sectors of retail, including our manufacturers.  As a result, they too have had to make changes.  Sympli, as an example, is not taking any special orders for the remainder of 2020 because they had to lay off 80% of their seamstresses.  They do have merchandise available that has already been made and can be ordered.  If you want an item that you cannot find in the store, please let me know, and I will see if it is available or if we might be able to get it in another color.
  8. Changes in in-store events: We just finished our VIP Pre-Crazy days sale and were able to have that in-store event while maintaining a safe environment.  The next big in-store event will be our Sympli Trunk Show which is scheduled in September.  I usually host an in store fashion show for that event.  Due to social distancing, we cannot do it the same as we usually do, but I am looking at other options like more spacing or even a virtual show.  I often ask our Fashionistas to weigh in and offer opinions and suggestions on our Fashionistas Facebook group.  If you are not already a member, please join today.
  9. Changes in dressing room protocol: You absolutely can try our clothing on while you are in the store.  What we have changed is that we hang the clothes over night after they have been tried on before returning them to the sales floor.  We also sanitize the dressing rooms in between customers.  We ask that you please give us any clothes that you have tried on so we may be sure to quarantine them properly.
  10. Additional ways to shop: This is a good change that has come from the pandemic.
    1. In addition to shopping in store Monday-Saturday from 10-6, you can shop online at http://www.fashioncrossroadsinc.com. We have beefed up our online inventory and added an in-store pickup option so you don’t have to pay shipping if your total is less than $100.  All online sales have a 30 day return window.
    2. We also post outfits on both Facebook and Instagram.  You can comment on those posts or message me in Messenger with questions about any items you are interested in.  We can then complete the purchase over the phone.  We ship for free if you spend $100 or more.  You can also use our alley way pick up or come and get your purchase in the store.
    3. We have added a personal shopper option called our Fashionista Kit.  You tell us what you want and what your budget is, and we will pull the items for you.  You can have your kit delivered to your home or you can use our alley way pick up option.  Just return what you do not like.
    4. I am hosting live sales the first Wednesday of the month on Facebook from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.  You can tune into these on our Fashionistas Facebook Group Page or on either of our business pages for Fashion Crossroads or FC Outlet.  The live sales feature new arrivals from both stores and always have special discounts and give-aways.  To make a live sale purchase, just comment “sold” and the size you want during the live sale.  The purchase will be completed the next day, and you have 2 weeks to return any items.

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