It is 1:42 pm, I am sitting at the dining table in mismatched pajamas. My Brazilian blowout is about six inches grown out, which means I have 1/4th poodle hair and then 3/4ths gorgeous silky wavy hair. I can’t remember the last time I wore makeup and I only tried my jeans on last week to make sure I could still button them (I can, so that’s a win these days). It is a beautiful sunny day in Mexico City. Birds are chirping, dogs are barking, but that’s about it. Normally you would hear the incessant honking of cars trying to make their way down Avenida Constituyentes (usually one of the most congested areas in the city). You would hear the lady that sells tamales out of her car over the loudspeaker (to be honest, I used to think she was incredibly annoying but now I find I miss her well-practiced, probably recorded spiel). You would also hear the guy that buys and sells refrigerators, washers and dryers, and all sorts of electronics, also done through a loud speaker, or the knife guy and his whistle, letting potential clients know he is around to sharpen knives (yes, this still happens in Mexico). But not today, today it is pretty silent around here. We all know why, I don’t even want to mention its ugly name.
Our New Normal
The last few weeks have brought the entire world to an abrupt stop. It seems like almost overnight, our world was drastically changed. Businesses shut down, and we locked ourselves in doors with an oversaturation of half information about the virus but not much information on when this will end. As a human being, I want nothing more than this to end so we can stop with the tragedy and start to heal. As a business owner, I am terrified of the repercussions this will have on my business. I can’t sleep, I get crazy migraines every other day, I cry, I mope around… and then a sale comes in! The hope that this could all still work! That I could get out of this and rebuild. I get excited, shower, edit items, relist, and then wait for the next miracle sale to arrive. (Note: I would like to add that, although I have had many ups and downs in these past few weeks, I have NOT lost my appetite. Cool, the one thing I could stand to lose *insert eye rolling emoji x3!)
I am a preloved designer goods reseller. I find preloved designer items a new home. A few months ago, we could all splurge every so often on a cute pair of designer shoes every so often, we could save up to buy our dream handbag, after all, we are a culture of hard workers (some would argue we are a workaholic society). I used to sit on the computer and scour the internet for untapped resources, diamonds in the rough, hidden gems. Nowadays, we find ourselves armoring up like we are going to battle just to go to the market. We spend our days in sweatpants (Karl Lagerfeld would be so disappointed. Maybe it is good he didn’t get to see this). Our evenings are spent scouring the internet for overpriced Lysol and Purell. Toilet paper has become a hot commodity. Toilet paper! What kind of world did we move in to in a matter of weeks? A new, very different, unpredictable world, and when this is over, there will be a lot of healing to do. So, what happens to my livelihood? my business? To luxury resale? Well…
According to James Coker of Essential Retail, Global online retail sales have fallen 30% so far (this was only through March 31stand we still have a whole month to go). Reporter Mark Baine wrote this in a recent article for Quartz.
“In a research note sent to clients today, investment firm Cowen and Company estimated total foot traffic to US retailers was down 97.6% for the week through March 27 compared to the same time last year. It has come to a “near complete halt,” Cowen said, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus.”
Annachiara Biondi with Vogue Business reported that luxury and fashion face a $600 billion dollar decline in sales. Yes, $600 BILLION. She also reports…
“Consulting firm BCG has revised its initial estimates and expects a drop in luxury sales between $85 and $120 billion in 2020, up from its first $40 billion forecast.”
These are all pretty scary numbers and headlines. So, what should I do? Should I just give up? Fire sell my items for pennies and go crawl under a rock? Well, some days that definitely crosses my mind but then I remember that history tends to repeat itself. What history would that be? There are a lot of amazing articles of what happened to the luxury market in 2008. Vogue Business has one of the best articles on it called “What Happens to Luxury during a Recession?”. But the story I will tell you is something I lived through… Rodeo Drive during the 2008 recession.
Tales of Rodeo Drive during the 2008 Recession
In 2008, I was an assistant manager at Juicy Couture. We had one of the biggest most beautiful stores, marble flooring, winding staircases with brass hardware. It was the epitome of luxury, it was SO Rodeo. I remember distinctly being at a Starbucks on Beverly Drive on my lunch break. I was sitting by myself, trying to mind my own business, but all around me there were conversations talking about how many people the big companies had just laid off (they mentioned a few, but I distinctly remember Sony). You could hear the fear in their voices. They kept asking who would be next? Would they get laid off too? Who would shop during a recession? Would the stores close down? These conversations took place at the end of November, a few weeks later, shit hit the fan. (This is my story and I can say any word I want *insert sunglass emoji*.
We used to be incredibly busy every day! We would run up and down stairs, in and out of stock rooms non-stop before the recession. Women would buy literal piles of tracksuits. Our average transaction was no less than $500, mainly because those tracksuit things cost about $400 for the starter set (by starter, I mean no Swarovski bedazzled-ness). Our single transactions could easily reach the $10,000 mark. Once the recession hit, it was DEAD. We literally felt like those poor fish in big fancy tanks. Just going around in circles, aimlessly. Before the recession, Rodeo was an iconic street, always busy with traffic, tourists, giant TMZ busses dropping people off (we hated this, these people would come in, touch everything and then buy a $40 rollerball perfume, thanks lady). Now it was like a ghost town. Not a single person that wasn’t an employee in sight. We had traffic counters on the doors, on average we would see hundreds of people a day. During the recession, there were days we were lucky if 50 people walked through the door. We had to cut shifts all around, cut expenses, we went through a devastating wave of layoffs but nothing helped, we were still hemoraging money.
My dream back then was to go work for Chanel or Prada, or someone in that space. I wanted to be a retail buyer. Rodeo was such a magical place. It was like working at an adult Disneyland. Beautiful clean streets, perfectly adorned, all the big fashion names were there. After the recession, it started to feel fake, like the curtain had been lifted and you could see it all start to deteriorate. I remember being so scared, wondering if I was going to get fired ( I made about $60,000 a year as an assistant manager at 23), who would hire me right now? And if by some chance I landed another job, who would match my salary in the current economic climate? Was this over? Was this as far as I would go in my career? Was fashion dead? No, the answer is, NO.
Remembering Our Why
The fashion and luxury industries went through a tough time. They took a nasty beating, but they survived. Not only did the survive, they went back up exactly to where they were and continued to grow. Most of these brands have been around for years, they have deep roots and history. They have done such an amazing job with branding that they have become iconic. Did Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, Prada start fire selling their collection bags when things got tough? No! maybe they ran sales on past season items or things that were not top sellers, maybe, but they did not just get rid of their product and accept defeat. Most of them maintained their pricing, they weathered the storm, and they came back stronger. I am sure they took a good look at their collections, the way they run day to day business, cut corners, reevaluated spending, but they did not give up. And that is where I am right now.
When I decided to start The Global Collective Co. I was not after a quick flip for profits. I set out to build a brand. The Global Collective Co has an identity. I want it to be around forever. She has a purpose. Her purpose is to help find new homes for perfectly good quality items. She wants to teach people to stop buying a lot of cheap, single use items, and instead invest in a curated collection of quality pieces that will last a lifetime. She wants to include clean beauty and perfume, ethically made accessories etc. at some point. So that’s my why. The reason I am not going to give up on The Global Collective Co. and luxury resale. This is not the end. This is an adjustment, a time to re-evaluate, re-strategize, and grow. The luxury market will be back, people will always want more value for their money (now more than ever). This whole experience might teach people that less is more. That we don’t need so much stuff, to consume just for the sake of consuming. Maybe people will become more intentional with their purchases. And we will be right there, waiting for our clients to come back.
If you are self-employed, own your own business, or were planning to start something new this year… do not let this stop you. We need to keep going. If you already have something built, fight to keep it alive, learn from this nightmare and keep going. If you were planning to start something, write it down, start planning, dream a little, this will end. Know that you are not the only one. Know that there are a lot of us on the exact same boat. Don’t pressure yourself, just take slow and steady steps. We will get through this, and we will have learned some hard but incredibly valuable lessons along the way. Reach out to friends and cyber internet friends. Build a community of like-minded people and share your thoughts. This is a tough situation we are in, but many good things will come out of this if we try and maintain a positive attitude and remember our WHY.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. – Viktor Frankl