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The winter 2021-2022 buying season is in full swing. 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 four-part series, we put our questions to various business owners.
Step up Sandra Snoeijen, owner of fashion store Sonar. For 12.5 years and counting, Sonar has been the first port of call for women in and around Eindhoven looking for their fix of fashion, accessories and shoes.
Sandra Snoeijen: ‘It’s striking that I’m actually taking more risks with my buying. I’m seeing that my customers’ shopping habits have changed: they aren’t just picking up the umpteenth dark blue sweater or fourth black blouse; they are after special items. They perhaps buy less, but they want items that bring new life to their wardrobe. The switch to more telecommuting isn’t directly reflected in our sales. Comfort has always been an important aspect of our collection. We also haven’t bought less, but by dropping one particular brand, we’ve cut our total budget and bought more from the other brands. This wasn’t actually linked to the coronavirus pandemic, but rather to the brand itself – it was offering cut-price items, making it our competitor instead of a partner’.
Fairs and showrooms ‘I enjoy buying at the fair in Copenhagen (CIFF, ed.). The fair has all the brands that I stock – including Baum und Pferdgarten, Absolute Cashmere, Antik Batik, Humanoid, Graumann, Drykorn and Ivylee – and the brands that I’m keen to check out. What I think’s great about a fashion fair is that it helps you to quickly and easily see the direction in which everyone is moving. It’s truly inspiring to see all the exhibitors at the fair, and all the visitors; what they are wearing, their combinations. I still prefer it to digital buying. Fashion simply shouldn’t be stuck on a rack, you need to see it on a body. That inspires so many more ideas.
I still visit the showrooms. Two weeks ago, I travelled to a showroom in Belgium, shopping list in hand. Apart from two brands, I found everything I was after. And it was pure luxury – because of the coronavirus restrictions, I had the showroom all to myself’.
Mobile store ‘Sonar isn’t to everyone’s taste, but our customers are very loyal. And that’s certainly helping us now. When the store was forced to shut in the lockdown, we headed out with bags full of stock to serve our customers. We went to gardens, lounges, and even sat next to wardrobes. It’s intriguing to see people in their natural habitat – and also to have direct access to their wardrobe. It strengthens the already strong connection that we have with our customers.
We’ve been open again for over a week now. The store is in a part of town where lots of women lunch out or go to the hairdressers. But we’re unfortunately not seeing them in the store. That’s due to the new shopping restrictions: customers have to register four hours in advance, and no more than four people – when social distancing is possible – are allowed in the store at one time. The informality has gone, we’re not getting the day trippers in the store. We’re thankfully not in financial dire straits. We never had lots of people in the store at the same time anyway, and our regular customers have stuck with us’.
Looking ahead ‘What customers can expect in our store the coming season and in winter 2021? Comfy clothing with a fashionable slant. Knitted trousers with exquisite sweaters, for example, and also the oversized boyfriend blazer. Sonar ladies don’t shy away from colour and prints, so our buying has been decidedly vivid. If that’s the general forecast for winter 2021? No, we could have gone down a more sombre route, but that’s not who we are’.
Written by Marjolein Stormezand