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Editor's Letter: In These Strange Days, Tell Us What You Need

Editor’s Note: This is the editor’s letter that will run in the upcoming March/April issue of Footwear Insight magazine. As we navigate through the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 virus, we want to hear from you. Let us know what you’re doing to protect yourselves and your businesses, what you’d like to be reading more of and what kind of coverage will help you the most, and what we can be doing to keep our community connected and supported. You can send us a message on Footwear Insight’s social media channels, or send an email to jbeaudry@formula4media.com. We’re here for you.

It’s been a chaotic and unnerving time for everyone, and I know a lot of us are worried — about our health, about our businesses, about our customers. The speed at which the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded has seemed to accelerate daily, and I know a lot of you have revised your plans on an hourly basis.

We still don’t know what the longer-term impacts of this crisis will be, and I know from the last few days that I don’t know enough to guess. So in the meantime, I want to send a bit of a love letter to all the shops I’ve been talking to, following on social media and observing as they rise to this challenge.

I’ve been inspired by the innovative things I’ve seen independents around the country doing — deliveries, drop-in, adapting their store hours, working with staff, rescheduling their events, reaching out to those in need — to keep serving their customers while protecting their employees and community.

And that’s good, because we need your stores.

I’ve had retail on the mind more so than usual lately. And one of the reasons why was brought home the other day when I was trying to solve a personal dilemma. My daughter is 4, and has strong opinions about what clothes she wears and what footwear she wants for the day. And as it may not surprise any of you familiar with 4-year-olds to learn, her opinions and my own don’t always align as to what’s weather-appropriate or activity-appropriate to wear. Selecting clothes for the day has become the flashpoint for more than one pitched battle, so you can imagine the dread I was feeling when I realized a few weeks ago that she had outgrown most of her clothes and shoes, and I would have to present her with replacements just ripe for being rejected.

Until I had a brainstorm. I pulled a bunch of hangers and our coat rack into the living room, carried my full-length mirror down from my room and started setting up shop. I hung dresses on the coat rack, folded sweaters and skirts into the piano bench, and used the turntable to set up a shop-in-shop with some of my old jewelry, a plant, and a pair of novelty sunglasses. I took the shoes and the sandals and merchandised them with looks. Then I took the old toddler shopping cart and play cash register out of the basement and opened my store.

And it worked. It worked! Getting to “shop” for her own things thrilled her to no end, and she piled her cart high with her new stuff. (Her mother’s daughter, I was pleased to see she started with shoes and built her outfits around them.) It was such a lovely reminder of how much pleasure there is in shopping in a store— all the surprises, the ideas you get, the things you discover. All it was missing was that one extra element your stores provide: The amazing associates who are there to explain the product, break down the trends, fit the shoes and fill the need. Thank you for working so hard to create those experiences, and thank you for letting me not just play at it for an afternoon, but watch it in action all year round.