Since its inception in 2010 the bespoke footwear brand has put in a lot of hard work to grow through word of mouth, social media, pop-up stores, concept stores, continuous range evolution and talented staff. And this hard work has continued to pay off with the company experiencing growth year on year.
As with many companies spanning across many industries, COVID-19 halted this growth.
For brick-and-mortar retail stores, the COVID-19 crises disrupted any plans they had for 2020. Many strategies put in place to ensure the safety of the community resulted in the closure of physical stores leaving them in the unknown.
A pandemic pivot
As businesses temporarily shut their doors big decisions had to be made around how they would operate moving forward. For FRANKiE4, it pivoted to a purely ecommerce model, utilising its already existing online store.
“We lost three of our four business income channels overnight as we had to cancel our pop-up stores, close our storefronts and watch as our stockist closed their doors,” Caroline says.
“This left the business relying solely on the online store as our sole source of trade.
“We also had shipments of stock heading our way that hinged on our online store doing all the heavy lifting. It felt really daunting at the time.”
That being said, FRANKiE4 took it in its stride and pivoted to increase the focus on its online platform.
“We focused on not just offering a better website experience overall but to back it up with a customer service team with heart,” Caroline says.
“Since losing the opportunity for customers to try on our shoes directly, we provided customer service staff who had real knowledge of our footwear to give accurate and authentic advice on how styles fit and feel.
“This made a substantial difference and our customers appreciated the effort and online experience.”
Lessons learnt from COVID-19
Reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic so far there are three things that Caroline says FRANKiE4 has learnt.
Long standing relationships with suppliers are very valuable
A lot of pressure and strain has been put on business relationships during COVID-19 and the value and strength of these relationships has been tested as supply chains shifted and in many cases halted.
Navigating this process has been a huge learning curve for all parties involved and Caroline says her strong relationship with her supplier was so valuable in getting FRANKiE4 through.
“Our supplier worked really hard to minimise our stress by assisting with managing the stock they had not yet shipped and orders we had placed prior to COVID-19,” Caroline says.
“Being able to rely on them during this time and work with them to find solutions has only further cemented the strong relationship we have. Having this strong relationship is something that we will continue to grow and build on.”
Creating a beneficial product with purpose
There is no denying that a lot of people are doing it tough and supplying strong problem-based solutions is important now more than ever.
“Creating a product that is truly beneficial and has purpose for the wearer/buyer is what increases business sustainability,” Caroline says.
“We don’t want to just be selling any product to our customers, we need to be providing value and fixing a problem.”
Measuring business activities is crucial
The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a lot of unpredictability that businesses needed to manage. FRANKiE4 met this uncertainty by better measuring its business activities.
“The uncertainty of what the pandemic brought made it feel like there was more at stake and less room for error. As such we adjusted our processes in order to measure our activities better,” Caroline says.
“It made us consider all we were doing and where possible, measure and evaluate everything we do. This gave us the full picture of what was going on within the business and guided us to manage it accordingly.”
Reflecting on this period and on these lessons, changing processes is something that Caroline would have implemented sooner.
“Having the discipline to measure and evaluate what we do is something that I would have implemented much earlier if I had realised the impact and importance it plays. Looking back I would have updated and changed some of our processes sooner,” Caroline says.
In a post COVID-19 world FRANKiE4 will take on board its COVID-19 experience as it continues to move forward and both survive and thrive.
“We plan to continue to focus on our products and to make products that are changing the way women are experiencing footwear. We have some really exciting things in the pipeline that I’m looking forward to getting to market because it will further help women and their feet,” Caroline says.
“We will also focus on maintaining our strong supplier relationships and will be evaluating and updating our processes regularly to ensure we stay ahead of any future disruptions.”