It’s not just a sad time for businesses like us that have to close but for all the couples who have had to cancel or postpone their weddings. We feel for each and every one of them and will do everything we can to accommodate them and make sure they get everything they need for their big day when they can.
When the government instructed us to close the doors to our business as part of the coronavirus lockdown it was a case of ‘what happens next?’. Like thousands of other business owners, I have never gone through – or am likely to go through – anything like this again in our lifetime.
Running a clothing business during lockdown has definitely been a rollercoaster, with plenty of highs and lows, but behind the scenes there has been plenty going on and we’re looking to the future all the time.
Making the business safe during lockdown
My first priority was to safeguard the wellness of my staff and to offer any assistance I possibly could. That involved seeking advice on wages and checking on their welfare. Then there was the legal minefield of where we stood with paying suppliers, paying bills and rent on a shop that wasn’t being used.
Fortunately for me, I have a wonderful team of staff as well as a support team including my accountant, Sam Rollins of Trinity Accountants, who has advised on the furloughing process and payroll, my PR consultant Ellen Manning of empr who has still been able to push the business forward against a difficult background and all my suppliers who have been extremely helpful, despite being in the same situation as we are.
Home life for a business owner during lockdown
Having a three-year-old daughter at home whilst also trying to run Albie & Lonnie’s has certainly been the toughest test under these circumstances. I’m sure any parent will understand how difficult it is trying to explain about ‘germs’ and what’s happening in our world isn’t an easy task with someone who is used to going to pre-school three days a week and is used to interacting with other children and family members on a daily basis.
Looking after my daughter on my own for the first two weeks (my wife Emma is a key worker) certainly made me appreciate how hard it is to look after little ones. Emma wasn’t furloughed at the beginning so it gave me time to enjoy the time with Pearl and make me realise how important family time is. We have had lots of fun but also a couple of tough days with a moody little girl in the house!
The business may take up a lot of my time, but I’ve also taken time for myself – I have reacquainted myself with my love of cooking, started playing the guitar a little, cut the grass silly amounts, painted inside the house, all the fencing and the front of the house as well!!
Albie & Lonnie’s in lockdown and the future
Work hasn’t really stopped as we look to keep the business going during lockdown. There have been plenty of zoom calls to attend and make as well as keeping in touch with suppliers and customer queries.
We also decided to launch a brand new online shop to allow our customers to buy online – innovating to fit with the circumstances we find ourselves in. As you read this, you will notice our new website is just about ready to be ‘live’ so you can shop our menswear and womenswear ranges at the click of a button.
This was definitely a change that has come as a result of lockdown and the feedback we had from customers who still want to shop their favourite look, even in lockdown. Thanks to help from Oxygen Graphics we’ve managed to convert our original site to an e-commerce site quickly and efficiently so we can adapt to fit the times.
We’ve fitted new rails in the shop to allow for more stock and new brands and we’re making sure we’re fully stocked so we can meet demand. Our spring/summer deliveries arrived the day before we closed so nobody has seen some of the ranges yet and womenswear launched just before lockdown so we’ve been focusing on social media to show off all the great items we’ve got in stock. We’ve also been recruiting a few new models so you can see all the great looks we’re offering ‘in real life’ as well as on the hangers.
It’s been a tough time for everyone, but we don’t plan on going anywhere. We’re here doing everything we can to help our customers carry on looking – and feeling – good. In the words of the Queen, we will meet again!