“We were one of the first ones to react in this region, closed our stores on the 13th of March and decided to adapt to working from home on the same day. The eventualities happened really fast to be honest. First at the beginning of that week we thought we’ll do groups of employees and we will rotate them in the office, but quickly it became apparent that we had to completely close our offices.”
Interview with Kata Bleyer, Marketing & E-commerce Director of Nanushka
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 affected the fashion industry and Nanushka?
It has affected hugely, stores had to close and some have even gone bankrupt. Customers have reduced their spending. As their priorities are changing. Minimalist, capsule wardrobe dressing, and an emphasis on classics, is gaining ground on lightning-fast fashion trends. Long-lasting classics will become the norm now. As a business, we’ve met this by looking inward, slowing down and making use of what we already have. On instagram we have launched the staying in series that gave comfort and companionship to our followers. We launched an Outlet store of iconic previous-season styles from our inventory to give customers the chance to satisfy the desire to appreciate really great pieces from brands that will be part of their wardrobes for years to come.
When did it become clear that you as a company had to react to the situation?
We were one of the first ones to react in this region, closed our stores on the 13th of March and decided to adapt to working from home on the same day. The eventualities happened really fast to be honest. First at the beginning of that week we thought we’ll do groups of employees and we will rotate them in the office, but quickly it became apparent that we had to completely close our offices. It’s been 3 months since that decision and we are still operating remotely, but we are now getting ready to reopen our stores in the next couple of weeks and hoping to return to the office as well.
What steps have you taken to ensure a seamless workflow and protect the health of your colleagues?
All of our head office staff are working from home, which means we have had to adjust how we work together but in reality only a little. We have a startup culture that means we use a lot of digital tools and technologies to support our work. So we continued using those tools, maybe a bit more now than before, but thankfully we didn’t have to implement any new ones. Lots of slack conversations and Google Meet meetings with video where possible so we all feel as connected as we possibly can.
The health, safety and wellbeing of our customers, community and staff members is our utmost priority. In early March we took the decision to close our flagship stores in Budapest and New York temporarily. We continue to monitor the situation closely and hope to reopen as soon as it is deemed safe. In our warehouse, we have stepped up measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and are meticulously following the guidance issued by WHO and local authorities. Staff members here are expected to follow social distancing guidance, with signage put in place and work stations moved to accommodate the two-meter rule, and hand sanitiser is readily available throughout the warehouse. On the whole, we’re continuing to monitor the situation closely and take enhanced, proactive steps to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep people safe.
What steps did the current situation require in terms of organizational changes, communication, marketing, sales, and PR; and what effects do you think these will have in the future?
Organizational changes not so much to be honest, thankfully we only had to let go of very few people from the teams; and for everyone else we have supported our colleagues with working from home habits and routines, regular catch ups and feedback sessions.
For PR and marketing the biggest change is that we have cut back our budgets significantly and that means that we have to be smarter and more entrepreneurial to achieve our targets while spending close to none.
As mentioned above we continue to have the staying in series, offering our followers and friends opportunities to learn, connect with themselves and slow down. These are activities very close to the brand and therefore allows us to further deepen our brand messaging.
What the future brings is a good question, I think no one knows the answer to that. The one thing that’s for sure is that we have to be more careful about the way we spend our bucks, short and medium term as well, and we will have to continue building brand love to ensure we are the brand of choice when customers will start shopping again.
How are you preparing for the changes following the pandemic? Are you expecting any kind of restructuring in the sector?
Due to concerns about international traveling, our relationship with buyers and wholesale partners will definitely change. We expect that everything from fashion shows to buying appointments will shift to digital platforms, which will require a lot of flexibility on our partners’ end, and a lot of work and creativity on ours, to showcase our collections in the most informative and engaging way. The way we do photo shoots will also change as social distancing measures will likely to stay in place a long time after the pandemic, so we are constantly brainstorming and looking for new methods to create content.
How has your brand communication changed due to the virus?
During this time of fear and uncertainty, we want to stay connected with our Nanushka family and share positivity. We always strive to communicate with our audience in ways that engage and inspire, but now it’s important that we are considerate and sensitive to the current situation. We want to reassure and lift spirits in any way that we can, presenting our followers with something new that they can use in their world in some way to feel better – this is now more about ideas, aesthetic and mindsets than just product. So as part of the staying in series we have offered them meditation classes, yoga sessions, we even did a flower workshop and shared some great recipes. None of these have been done before but they all felt very right for the time, when people are spending time at home and might need to find new activities that fuel them.
How have your online sales been affected in the last couple of months? Do you see any trends as to how certain product categories have been performing?
We created a designated category on Nanushka.com called ‘Staying In’ – an edit of easy pieces that our customer would feel comfortable wearing at home, such as matching loungewear sets, knitted dresses, oversized shirts and pajama-style shorts – and this is performing really well. Over the last few weeks, we have simultaneously started to notice an increasing appetite once again for clothes outside of this pure comfort zone – our line of elevated, almost occasion, summer dresses, for example, is starting to pick up as our customers start to imagine a life after lockdown.
Additionally we have been lucky because our sales have picked up after a little dip of 2-3 weeks and that means we didn’t have to do any further cuts. However the stores are still closed and our wholesale partners had to cancel many of their orders which means we have a big job with online sales to make up for those loses.
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