10 Questions: Freeman / Seattle, Washington USA
In this series, we will ask 10 Questions of independent retailers around the world. In this difficult time we're all facing, we wanted to find out how these shops are doing, how they plan to operate in the short term, and how you can support them to make sure their doors open when the coast is clear.
- Have you closed the doors to your store by government mandate? Yes. Technically we’ve been closed since 3/17 as our government had issued some pretty strong guidelines to help minimize the spread of the virus. We shifted to appointment only, but then this week officially closed as the order to stay at home went into effect.
- Did you have an e-commerce store before the emergence of the virus? E-commerce was how we got into the retail game, brick-and-mortar came second, so we are grateful that we’ve had that set up, certainly now more than ever.
- If so, have you noticed an uptick in online sales as loyal customers want to support you? It seems like there has been an uptick from local folks in particular which we are extremely grateful for.
- If not, have you been able to sell products via email or by appointment in the store? Editor: answered in question 1.
- Do you believe that consumers will change their minds regarding where they spend their money and what they buy if they see their neighborhoods changed due to store closures related to the quarantine? I imagine most folks are taking notice of something that we all have maybe taken for granted: small business is the backbone of this country. It's in the fibers of our society and woven into the landscape of the towns and cities in which we live. I think the scary realization is setting in that mass closures of small businesses would be devastating for everyone.
- Is The Clash A) the greatest English band of all-time B) the best punk band ever C) The Only Band That Matters or D) all of the above? The Clash is a band. They were a very good band.
- Are you using some of the time during the closure of your store to do some projects inside the store (remodeling, re-merchandising, etc)? We had a pretty bold spring plan going into this mess as we were planning an expansion of our store and had ordered more women's items to fill out this new space. This plan also involved us building more women's offerings within the Freeman brand. Unfortunately, we had to put this on hold when everything came to a screeching halt – it didn’t feel prudent to invest in expansion when our number one concern was paying our employees. We may still chip away at the expansion (since Scott is a carpenter) but have put it on hold right now. We shifted much of our focus from the store to how we could mobilize our idle sewing shop to help with the shortage of PPE for healthcare workers. We just linked up with a group north of us who are working directly with hospitals on medical-grade masks and are cueing up production now. We are super excited to have some way to contribute in these crazy times. It's surreal how a skill like sewing or garment production has gone so undervalued for so long in this country, and now we find ourselves in this unimaginable situation where professional sewers are needed more than ever to build protective gear. Certainly never saw that coming.
- Have any of your brick-and-mortar customers reached out to you specifically to see how you're doing and asked how they can support you? Yes, our local community has been great. I feel lucky to have made a connection with so many over the last 5 years.
- Are you optimistic you will survive the quarantine and be able to reopen your store? We started this company running everything by ourselves and if we had to, we could do it again. I honestly think it won’t come to that and we can’t imagine Freeman without our amazing staff. We don’t want to be all roses and sunshine though, I think getting through the quarantine might be the easy part, it could be the economy that awaits on the other side that could be trickier to navigate. We need to be smart and nimble as we probably won’t know what to expect for quite a few months.
- If someone reading this would like to support you by making a purchase from you, what is the best way for them to handle the inquiry? Our online shop (freemanseattle.com) has everything that one would normally find in our brick-and-mortar and Info@freemanseattle.com is a great way to reach us with any questions. Thanks, Tony and Pete! Hang in there!