Traditional retail — meaning the bygone act of walking into a store, trying something on in a dressing room, handing your credit card to a smiley cashier over the counter — is one of the great many casualties of the coronavirus pandemic. The consequent rise of e-commerce threatens to destroy all social aspects of shopping, but that won't be the case for Awoke Vintage if founder Liz Power has anything to do with it.
The Zoe Report's sister site, Bustle, started the Small Business Salutes YouTube series to celebrate independent shops, salons, fitness studios, and so forth that are "going above and beyond to make it work as the world grapples with the ramifications of COVID-19." The latest to be showcased is a beloved New York City resale franchise.
When Awoke Vintage closed its doors in March, founder Liz Power was forced to furlough nearly her entire 15-person staff and pivot abruptly to selling via Instagram Stories. And to her pleasant surprise, it worked.
If you follow @awokevintagebrooklyn on Instagram, you've seen the wealth of colorful designs, novelty tees, broken-in denim, and jewelry to hit the brand's Stories daily. According to Power, 70 percent of the pieces featured are sold within 24 hours.
"Everyone's working from home, maybe they're on Instagram a little too much, but we noticed the sales really just booming," she said. "Things were just getting snapped up super quickly."
In the beginning, Power said she noticed a heightened demand for "elasticated waists and comfy loungewear" but also sparkles and sequins for those "Friday night Zoom calls" that have become the new norm. The brand is even providing jeans consultations over Instagram, a service it used to offer in its stores.
But going entirely virtual has had an unexpected benefit: Power feels that her customer relationships are getting stronger even without the element of human contact. When they make purchases via a DM, they're getting a real person on the other end, she says. Even those who have lost jobs themselves have reached out to ask how they can help.
While Awoke Vintage, now reduced to a staff of three, continues to max out its Instagram Stories with fresh batches of fun, retro finds each day, Power is left to reevaluate the franchise's position. "What does brick and mortar look like moving forward?" she wonders, meanwhile toying with the idea of converting the smallest of her three stores into an exclusive Instagram warehouse and photo space.
If you want to support Awoke Vintage, you can shop its colorful collection via Instagram, purchase a gift card to use in the future, or simply write a review on Google or Yelp, she says.
We are shining a spotlight on some of the millions of small businesses now challenged by COVID-19. This is part of an ongoing commitment our parent company, Bustle Digital Group, is making to support small businesses throughout the entire month of May. Tell us about your favorite small business on social media using #SmallBusinessSalutes.