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FLINT, MI — Glam Boutiques owner Deria Brown just had to close all three of her brick and mortar retail spaces and move their operation to an online store.
“The need to bring the online forward and kind of elevate it and be better at it was brought on by COVID, not necessarily because I was ready to focus on it. It’s been rocky,” says Brown. “The first thing that was disrupted in March was the supply chain. Being able to get supplies for online or brick and mortar has been virtually impossible for a store our size.”
As both the supplies and the demand began to dwindle, Glam Boutiques had to lay off their employees almost immediately.
“Our store model was crushed in a matter of days,” says Brown. “This has given me some time to rethink it. It wasn’t recession-proof, obviously not pandemic-proof. We never had to think in that many layers. (Our process) was, get open and get customers. Attack, attack, attack, then plan. That was our strategy.”
With retail operating in seasons, the regularly planned buying habits of customers became a big question mark. Brown had to pivot immediately based on their new sales trends.
“We’ve pretty much become an accessories brand: scarves, sunglasses, things that people can wear during the quarantine,” says Brown. “I’m not finding the consumer desiring a new wardrobe being in a stay-in-place order. The spring dresses and Easter dresses? No, no, no. Not buying them. Not doing that the way they were doing it before getting dressed up and going out. We’ve seen a shift and responded to that.”
Selling accessories with a 30-50% lower price point used to be an add-on, but was quickly becoming the only seller. The financial implications have been catastrophic and Brown is doing what she can to help her remaining staff.
“My heart goes out to our staff. We did hire three incredible women; single-parent students who have to figure out how to feed their children,” says Brown, adding that she’s been paying some staff out of her personal savings.
Through the process, Brown has learned to not be so hard on herself, as it’s something she can’t control. She’s adjusting to a healthy mix of work and escapism, making mental management her number one priority.
“No, I don’t have to make the most of a pandemic. I can take a couple evenings a week and go through a Marvel marathon from top to bottom and check out of this junk. Then I go through my routine in the morning. I get dressed. I’m rewriting my business plan. I’m sourcing and seeking out new local vendors, stateside made-in-USA vendors. Posting online trying to generate sales. Then I spend a great deal of time trying to understand and communicate with the government.”
Glam will eventually reopen and the silver lining is Deria Brown will have a whole new perspective on business and herself.
“I don’t think I will ever go back to what I was. I will never live with that much stress ever again. I carry an incredible amount of stress, a heck of a workload and now that it’s all removed and I can kind of think clearly, I don’t know. There are some portions of me that will never be the same and I think that’s a good thing.”