With customers huddled safely in their homes, and many businesses eager to work but declared non-essential, the spirit of the retail community has been nothing short of inspirational. In the face of having to close doors, furlough employees, and wonder when business as usual will resume, retailers are stepping up to find new purpose and contribution to the greater good.
Retailers known for their impeccable styling and tailoring are pitching in to leverage resources, skills, and facilities for the production of personal protective equipment (PPE). Rather than stay at home, retail workers are giving back to the industry, helping to ensure an upside to our isolation orders.
Nordstrom: As the largest employer of tailors in North America, the Seattle-based retailer is sewing over 100,000 masks, which will be sanitized and distributed to healthcare workers. Teams in four states are working on the project.
Jo-Ann Fabrics and Neiman Marcus Group: The fabric company jumped into the fray to help make PPE for healthcare workers by providing sewing machines, guidance, and materials to volunteers who want to help with the effort. In addition to assisting with production, they are helping hospitals to source key materials like vinyl and elastic.
Beyond their own effort, Jo-Ann Fabrics is collaborating with Neiman Marcus Group to make gowns, masks, and scrubs for the medical community. Neiman Marcus had the sewing skills, but called on Jo-Ann Fabrics for material and CDC-approved patterns. Right now, the pieces are being assembled in four of Neiman’s alteration facilities. The next challenge is looking beyond masks into other types of necessary PPE.
Michael’s: The crafts store recently donated $1 million in fabric to provide various local organizations the material to produce 750,000 masks. In addition to the fabrics, they’ve provided instructions, patterns, and links to any required products from their site.
Along with the feeding frenzy on toilet paper, consumers were quick to empty retail shelves of hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies. To make sure there was adequate supply, innovative retailers retooled their manufacturing facilities to move away from cosmetics and perfume, and began producing cleaning materials.
LVMH and Estee Lauder: LVMH kicked off the trend in the beauty industry by converting its French fragrance facilities into hand sanitizer production factories. The end product is being distributed to local hospitals. Shortly after, Estee Lauder Companies reopened a manufacturing plant to begin production of hand sanitizer.
In the United States, a number of distilleries pitched in to provide their versions of sanitizer.
Good will hunting
While the virus is wreaking havoc in hot spots across the world, it is bringing out an altruistic, community-oriented movement toward providing support and other modes of good will.
Crocs: The manufacturer of those colorful rubbery clogs have launched a program called “A Free Pair for Healthcare,” and are donating shoes to medical teams across the county. Healthcare workers, who appreciate the shoes for both comfort and easy clean up, can visit the Crocs site to order. When they hit 10,000 pairs in a day, the site invites visitors to come back the following day. Crocs’ CEO said “The duration of our giveaway will depend on our level of inventory and the amount of requests we receive. These workers have our deepest respect, and we are humbled to be able to answer their call and provide whatever we can to help during this unprecedented time."
Rothy’s: Last month, Rothy’s posed a challenge to their Instagram followers to see how they might contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts. After receiving hundreds of ideas, they created the Open Innovation Coalition along with a number of other retail brands. Each company contributes materials, patterns, skills, and distribution - allotting close to 30% of their manufacturing time to making masks. Various partners contribute what they can in terms of raw materials, and they collaborate toward a finished product.
Williams Sonoma: This kitchen and homeware brand is working with No Kids Hungry to make sure that children are receiving meals while they aren’t in school. Sweetgreen is making sure healthcare workers are amply fed. And the Starbucks Foundation is donating $500,000 to support front-line responders, and providing free coffee to those front-line workers through early May.
TIP: While you’re on your journey through this precarious time, and you have the time, the inclination, and the supporting community, leveraging your collective skills for the protection of others pays a whole new kind of dividend for retailers.