The winter 2021-2022 buying season is out of the starting blocks. A time of year usually marked by the biannual Modefabriek fashion event. In light of the coronavirus restrictions, this year’s event was cancelled. How are retailers dealing with the current situation? What’s the deal with buying during a lockdown, and what has changed since before the pandemic? In this three-part series, we put our questions to various business owners.
Today, we chat to Tessa Overakker. Together with twin sister Bibi, she runs FOOF in Haarlem, a mid-segment store stocking women’s clothing and shoes. Tessa is also the owner of Tof Agency, which represents mid-segment clothes brands. So she has something of a double role.
Overakker: ‘Fashion fairs are where store owners head for inspiration, to connect with agents and brands, and to get an idea of the trends for the coming buying season. I think that lots of retailers are missing the fairs. But in my role as agent, I see how stores are sooner inclined to drop brands than to buy in new ones. Stores are still adapting to online buying and digital business. In that regard, consumers are more familiar with ordering online. Stores still like to visit the showrooms in real life. And that is something that I’m experiencing as both agent and store owner’.
Buying ‘Our store is perhaps not entirely the norm. We’re not very methodical, and we don’t have strict budgets. We buy what feels right, in line with how we envisage our store looking for that season. Our customers expect to be inspired, so we haven’t adjusted what we buy, nor do we buy less than we used to. And we also haven’t postponed the sales. Of course, you can leave a few items to run longer and keep a black rollneck or trousers in for another season, but the rest really needs to be refreshed; in a store like ours, in any case. So our buying strategy essentially hasn’t changed. The way we see it, if you buy less, you’ll not hit the required annual sales’.
Sales ‘In this period, it really comes down to entrepreneurship. The coronavirus pandemic gave us the kick we needed to breathe new life into our webstore – it was already live, but we hardly used it – and our social media. Everything is worlds apart from before the pandemic: you can’t just open the doors and wait for customers to appear. You have to go to your customers. By reaching them online, by being active, and by always being switched-on. If you skip Instagram for a day, for example, orders instantly drop. Answering customer questions is almost a full-time job in itself. ‘Do these trousers run true to size?’, ‘What’s the fit like with these shoes?’; it’s an entirely different type of customer contact. We were always service oriented, but now more so than ever before. And we are reaping the rewards, customers appreciate it and will soon return to the store in person’.
Winter 2022 ‘Comfy clothing is very much in demand at the moment, like sweaters and comfortable trousers. But at FOOF, we want to offer that extra something, and generate almost a grabbiness with our customers. We are optimists, so for the summer, we went for pretty dresses and other gorgeous summery items. I’m somewhat concerned about the more festive dresses. We hope that weddings will be back on the cards, giving occasion to wear all the pretty dresses. And we’re also feeling positive about winter 2022. The lockdown will surely be a thing of the past by then, and the shops will be open, but perhaps we’ll still be working from home. So your perspective of clothing shifts, and perhaps you’ll buy a few more sweaters than you used to. The brands themselves are introducing more comfy clothing, which also steers you in that direction. We never used to sell sweatpants, for example, but we do now. Dressy sweatpants, mind you, matched with a fetching ruffle blouse. The combination is essential – after all, we’re still FOOF’.
Written by Marjolein Stormezand