Within a few days of each other, two of my favorite brands have announced that they are shutting down. Henri Bendel, my go-to for handbags, cool jewelry, and accessories, announced that it will be shutting down its website and stores in January of 2019, due to “sluggish” sales.
Another favorite of mine, Shoes of Prey, recently posted that they are “pausing” to consider their options for the future of their business, after admitting that their sales have been less than expected. Ouch. As a person who also owns retail businesses, double ouch.
A little about why I love these brands:
Henri Bendel has been in business for 123 years. One hundred, and twenty-three years! It was the first luxury brand to have an upper Fifth Avenue address. Henri was responsible for bringing Chanel across the pond, and his store was one of the first to feature Paris Couture along with Bendel’s own impeccable designs. In the 1960’s, the brand was credited with the discovery of artist Andy Warhol, who was brought on as an in-house illustrator. Bendel made those brown and white stripes iconic, as the first true American luxury brand. It's tragic that this legacy of history and style is just going away, forever.
Shoes of Prey, my go-to for the perfect shoe, had in my opinion the most amazing business concept ever: Everything was customizable, from color, to material, heel height, and even width. You could design your own completely custom shoe to be everything you ever wanted. This was a dream come true for me. I love shoes, but I can’t always find exactly what I want. With Shoes of Prey, in approximately 14 days I could have anything my little heart desired delivered to my door for about the same price as other mid-range shoe brands. I hope that their “pause” truly is just that, a pause. It’s a super cool concept, and where else can a girl find the perfect shoe every single time?
Here’s what I find interesting; reading through the comments on both businesses’ announcements, there were TONS of people who were “outraged,” “disappointed,” and “heartbroken” over the news, who also admitted that they had NEVER MADE A PURCHASE WITH THE BRAND. Really. Before you think I’m exaggerating this information (check those social media comments out!), let me tell you a story:
About two years ago, my plus size bridal shop, Bombshell Bridal, announced that we would no longer be carrying bridesmaid dresses. It was a decision that we analyzed and took much time in making, and was based on the decline in our bridesmaid business and the shift to many bridesmaids purchasing their dresses with online sellers. It was a business decision. As a business, I can’t keep supporting departments that aren’t performing. Simple as that. When we announced this change, we were inundated with the nastiest comments we’ve ever received, on anything we’ve ever posted. Seriously. If you have the patience, you can scroll back in time on our Facebook page to read them. But here’s the kicker- the outraged comments weren’t even from customers! They were almost all from people who had never purchased with me. We even got a few variations of “where is a plus size bridesmaid supposed to try a dress on before she buys it online?” I kid you not. It was absurd, and ridiculous, and all I could think was, “I wouldn’t be getting rid of this service if all you complainers would have supported me with your business!” Business is tricky, and of course you can’t shout something like that at people, but it certainly was frustrating.
When Bombshell Bridal opened, I naively thought that all plus size brides would just be delighted that we existed. Finally, there was a shop where they could try on a huge variety of designer gowns in her size! It sounded like such a great concept to me, that I put everything I had into it. However, this was not the case… Lots of plus size brides didn’t want to be associated with shopping at the plus size boutique, and even though I had more variety and a much better experience to offer, many of them still shopped elsewhere.
I mention this, because simply having a good idea isn’t enough. You need people to support your idea, or you’ll never make it.
Thankfully, we have been blessed to have the overwhelming support of the most wonderful brides! Plus size and a surprising number of non-plus brides have supported our mission and our business with their buying power, and it makes a difference! Not just to my bridal business specifically, but to the bridal industry as a whole. The success we’ve had as a business has captured the attention of many people in the bridal industry, which has enabled us to make a big impact. We’ve gotten the available size ranges of gowns expanded higher so every bride can fit into her dream dress. We’ve had a hand in setting reasonable price points for the bride at the manufacturing level, so every bride can afford her dress. We’ve been able to influence design aspects so that plus size brides have the same style options as any other bride, and the list goes on. But, here’s the big takeaway; our customers enabled all of that. Their support, in the form of their business, made all of those things possible. While the largest bridal chain store only offers their own gown designs up to a size 26W, we’ve made a space where ANY size bride can find a beautiful dress. And not just our Bombshell brides, brides all over the country shopping at independent boutiques benefit from these changes. YOU did that, dear sweet customers. You made that change possible.
Remember when we were all so upset about Toys "R" Us closing? I was definitely bummed out. I remember shopping for Christmas gifts about 10 years ago when my youngest cousins still wanted toys, but I hadn’t been inside a Toys "R" Us since. I haven’t really had a reason to shop for toys in recent years, but if I had, I can honestly say that I probably would have checked Amazon first, because it’s convenient and it doesn’t require pants. However, when my adorable goddaughter visits and I want to spoil her to no end, there is no more Toys "R" Us to experience with her. It’s sad, because we’ve lost something we can never quite get back. Yes there are other places to buy toys, and I’m not just being overly dramatic. This place, this specific place that most of us have joyful childhood memories of, is now gone and our little people will never have that same experience.
Things change. The economy changes. The way people spend money changes. Things go in and out of style, and the only thing those of us in business can to do survive is try to be ahead of the change. But here’s what I implore you to do dear friends; support the things you love with your dollar. Put your money where your heart is. I can promise you as a business owner, it DOES make a difference. Even one purchase makes a difference. As a small business, one customer’s purchase is sometimes the difference between making payroll or not. Use your buying power to support the things and brands that you love, because otherwise, they’ll go away forever.
You matter. Your decisions matter. Every choice we make, impacts the world around us. Let's be intentional about what we support, so we can surround ourselves with more of the things we love. This is just as true in our buying habits as it is in other parts of our lives. Choose what makes your heart happy.