Hi everyone, and thank you Justin & Lauren for opening up this discussion!
Our brand (Slowstitch Studio) is in the first category of small design brand and this whole covid thing has really been bashing us. However the changes have also forced us to reevaluate our direction and identity as a brand so it’s not all doom and gloom.
At the moment most of our revenue is coming from custom projects for other businesses, bulk dyeing jobs for fashion brands, interior decoration jobs, that kind of thing. Direct-to-customer sales are nearly non-existent. I think people are cautious about high priced non-essential purchases at this time.
There were several articles in Thai news last month saying that offices of non-essential workplaces could be contributing to virus spread. Once we heard that we immediately started preparing for a work-from-home scenario for our staff in case we got shut down completely. Thankfully that hasn’t had to happen yet, but since Thailand hasn’t really even had a first wave of infections it’s still a possibility in the future.
1: (Covid impacts) - The biggest craft fair of the year for us has been cancelled and our shop has been forced to close temporarily as it is a non-essential business. Our retail sales and planned workshop events are basically dead at this point. Even after lockdown is lifted people will most likely not want to congregate together in close proximity at workshops for quite some time. As we are located in Chiang Mai and rely heavily on domestic tourists we expect the rest of 2020 to be pretty rough.
2: (Digital sales transition) - Unfortunately our products (mostly high priced textiles) have always been extremely difficult to sell online for us. In person we do much better. People need to touch and feel the fabric before they buy it. While we appreciate our online fan following the truth is that they rarely convert into sales. We’re working on finding a balance between curating meaningful mini-story-based content on our social media and squeezing some products into the mix without over-crapping our feed into some kind of shopping catalog. Any advice on how to do this tastefully would be awesome.
Also, this is just our own personal observation (and we’d appreciate others’ input on this) but we’ve seen an increasing shift away from purchasing of finished products and more towards customers searching for an experience. Workshops, learning, supplies, etc. To better support customers who are looking for an experience we are now developing some textile dye kits for people to create beautiful naturally dyed scarves at home by themselves or with their kids. If these do well we will start branching out into supplies and resources.
3: (Reaching out to customers) - The main focus for us now is social media and taking this time to build up brand presence. As for our finished textile goodies we’re going to transition towards wholesale orders to get our products physically in front of more people.
4 & 5: (Support and service for USA/EU based customers) - It would be fantastic if we could find somebody to represent our brand to potential clients in USA/EU! It’s been difficult for us. Our past experiences with agents haven’t been great. Seems like a lot of agents are just trying to cash into a trend and use loads of sustainability woowoo buzzwords while not treating handcrafted works any differently from mass produced stuff. However, since Kindcraft has been working closely with the makers from the beginning maybe you might be perfectly positioned to act as a mediator between makers and venues/boutiques/stores?
Looking forward to everyone’s thoughts.
Serge & Ann