The Weekly - July 7, 2020 - 6




# W E A R E C O M M U N I T Y

Norrøna athlete
Giuliano Bordoni

Crisis Is Opportunity
While the COVD-19 pandemic has brought many
big manufacturers to a screeching halt, smaller,
more nimble brands are finding the opportunity
to partner with retailers. By James Edward Mills

pandemic, specialty store fronts
and manufacturers alike are doing
all that they can to keep their heads
above water. Limited foot traffic due
to stay-at-home orders and physical
distancing requirements have only
added to their misery. But in an
industry accustomed to the uncertainties of weather and sudden shifts
of economic stability, many smaller
companies are taking this global
health emergency in stride.
"Through the COVID-19 crisis,
while it definitely shocked us and
shut things down momentarily,

we've actually come through this
quite well," says Adam Chamberlin,
sales manager of the Norway-based
apparel brand Norrøna. "People
have bought more clothing and gear
this summer and spring than they
have in a long time. The reorder
business through wholesalers has
been screaming. That's been a real
source of strength for us and justified our holding tight on our orders."
By the time the pandemic hit
in late January, most product
orders for spring 2020 had already
shipped. With a good ski season
underway, at least a few retailers


had begun placing reorders. But as
business began to slow and cancellations started rolling in, some savvy
suppliers kept products in stock
and worked with retailers to shift
their inventories to meet demand
wherever possible.
"That's just being a good partner,"
Chamberlin says.
As shops started to struggle
through the challenges of store
closures and employee furloughs,
managers had to scramble to both
serve their customers and keep
them safe from any potential exposure to the virus. That put a crimp
in standard operating procedures
and threw the best-laid plans out
of whack. "Demand for bikes and
paddle sports was crazy," says Mike
Donohue, co-owner of the Outdoor
Gear Exchange in Burlington,
Vermont. "Apparel sales were good
too. But we had spotty delivery from
some vendors with incomplete size
runs and missing colors. A lot of
them though were willing to work
with us to get what we needed."
In some markets, despite the crisis, business has continued. Though
many consumers were put out of
work, many remained employed
working from home. Economic
stimulus checks combined with
canceled spring break vacations
meant there were many families
with discretionary funds to spend
on outdoor gear. Those suppliers
nimble enough to meet this demand
were the most successful.
"We haven't taken our foot off the
gas in terms of the investments we
are making on the supply side or the

brand side," says Bill Sinoff, general
manager of Evolv climbing shoes.
"For us, it's business as usual. We
don't anticipate any dire consequences over time."
A vertically integrated brand,
Evolv controls its supply chain.
Significantly less affected by tariffs
and shipping restrictions, smaller
companies have the ability to better
withstand global crisis. By making
products in facilities they own or
under their direct supervision, these
companies can more easily adjust
inventory levels and meet order
specifications with better accuracy.
Quantities may be low but the
rate of delivery fulfillment on each
invoice can be much higher.
"We have retailers coming to us
saying, 'We can't get these products
for X,Y,Z brands. Can we get them
from you?'" says Jon Frederick,
country manager for Rab. "We're a
smaller player in this market, and
that gives us an opportunity for better market share. I believe it will be
a long-term gain."
Building solid relationships with
retailers during tough times has
long been a hallmark of smaller
manufactures. The current circumstances aren't much different than a
natural disaster or a season without
snow. Now is the time for these
emerging brands to shine.
"Crisis is opportunity in drag,"
says Norrøna's Chamberlin. "As
awkward as it is in this catastrophic moment, retailers-especially
small specialty retailers-have
some new options, whether they
want them or not."



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The Weekly - July 7, 2020

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