Key Florida Retailer Details the Current Wild World of Retail
A key industry account in Florida on Monday shared with us the strange, strange world that has unfolded at retail over the past few weeks.
The virus crisis is hitting Florida at an especially hard time during the spring break season, the busiest time of year for many retailers.
We asked Island Water Sports Partner Cheyne Cottrell what business has been like. Island Water Sports, in Deerfield Beach, just won a SIMA Award for East Coast Retailer of the Year last week.
IWS has been on quite a rollercoaster of late, Cheyne said. They had a great month in February, with sales up 20% both in stores and online.
But that changed in March when the virus scare hit. So far this month, they are down 40% in store and 20% online.
That number does not quite capture the weird boomerangs. This past weekend, the beaches were packed so IWS was up 10%. However, during the week of March 8-13, sales were down significantly, Cheyne said.
“It’s really all over the place,” he said. “I think we’re fortunate being located at the beach. However, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami just closed their beaches, and it looks like that may happen here in Deerfield, which would impact sales.”
We asked Cheyne if he feels any pressure to close the store, given the retail closures that are happening.
“We do feel some pressure,” he said. “We have closed all of our camps. We do some outside pop up shops that were canceled. As things get worse, and if there’s any chance our team is endangered, we will also close. It’s a hard call.”
“If this was September or any of our slower seasons we would already be closed. Unfortunately, these six weeks are our busiest of the year, and comprise 20% of our annual sales. So a total store closure would be a hard hit.”
“In the meantime, we’ve set up our buyers and e-commerce team to work from home,” Cheyne said. “We also have some of our sales team being set up to work from home.”
“We’re really trying not to cut hours, so we’re doing all the projects we normally wait to do in the slow season. Our staff is also getting cross trained on our e-commerce product listings because we always need more help in that area.”
We also asked if IWS has started to cut orders from brands given the temporary decrease in sales and the uncertainty.
“There’s the short term and the long-term ramifications of this,” Cheyne said. “For the short term, we haven’t canceled anything yet. As things become clearer, I’m sure we’ll need to make some adjustments. For the longer term, I think the damage to the economy is still hard to quantify. We were conservative for our Fall orders, and as we begin to see Holiday, we are forecasting that buy will be down as well.”
As far as communicating with customers, IWS is talking about its cleaning protocol, and more than usual about services they offer such as delivery of rentals and instore pickup of online orders, both of which are available year-round.
They also continue to promote being outside on all channels.
“With the current circumstances, we have increased that message,” Cheyne said.