SHORT PUMP, Va. -- Over its nearly 70-year history, Saxon Shoes has survived snowstorms, fires, and economic recessions. But it has never faced a challenge like the one COVID-19 has presented. The shoe store in Short Pump Town Center has closed its doors to comply with the governor's stay-at-home orders.
In an effort to connect with customers and sell this season's shoe stock, Saxon Shoes owner Gary Weiner and his daughter Amanda launched a Facebook Live series. The father-daughter team discussed the challenges of staying open, at least virtually, amid the coronavirus outbreak.
You guys were obviously watching the headlines from overseas, what were you thinking from a retail and business perspective as you're seeing the headlines?
From a retail perspective, especially when you're talking apparel and footwear, it's near devastating. We've built a business on talking to people, sitting with people.
It's about our in-store experience. We're an in-store business. That's our niche. And we're not able to bring anybody in store.
So we've got shoes for March and April that are kind of just sitting on the shelf.
And luckily, my daughter thought of a couple ideas to try and make that move.
One thing people need to consider is that, you know, jewelry, diamonds will be a diamond when they reopen in a month or two. And food will be replenished, and it'll be brand new and fresh. Some of our product needs to get into people's hands and feet sooner than later. Because once we get through the spring, some of the things are a little changed.
I know you guys have been through your fair share of big stories before, whether it be a fire or other kind of things. How is this different than other things that you've faced in the past?
We've always had a way to do business.
When we had that fire, we were able to open up a temporary store and we had insurance for that kind of stuff. But here, literally your doors are closed you have halted business.
That's a key right now. Very few people in our industry have insurance that covers coronavirus for business interruption. When we burned down in 2001, fortunately, that was a covered under our policy, and it allowed us to maintain everything as we were even without having a store.
So at what point did you guys realize you were going to have to get creative?
It really started trailing at the end of February, a little bit more in early March. And then the bottom just tanked out.
This is a family business, third generation now with Amanda. How scary is it to not know where this is going?
It's extremely scary. You know, this isn't the industry I grew up in. It's different. It's adapting, but you have to do that to still play ball.
I mean, sitin' fit, is what we've harped on for 65 years and that will remain what we do.
But you know, having these Facebook Live videos is something new and exciting and gives us a way to compete, because people want to support local right now. So it gives us that option.
So let's talk about that. What's the innovation you guys are doing?
We are doing Facebook live videos showcasing all of the new merchandise that we've received in the store. We are giving people the opportunity to message, to call, to email with the products that they like. And we are giving 20% off now through Sunday.
All of these videos are going to be posted to our Facebook and our Instagram feeds after they air. So if there's something that you're looking for, you can go look at those photos, those videos and just message us and let us know how we can help.
Getting back to your question, is it scary? You know, it's not so much that it's scary. It's the unknown. And this is something that none of us have ever dealt with, not her generation, not my generation.
A snowstorm will close us for two, three, five, seven days and you can see the tunnel, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
There's no light right now. It's a pretty tough situation to figure out when you just can't understand when you might be able to unlock your doors.
We've considered doing shop by appointment, we might go that route, we may start calling customers to see if we can help them in any way. So you know, we're trying to be as creative as possible and these Facebook live events that Amanda started, we've had over 400 or 500 views already. And it was a live event. And she's got them scheduled Tuesday through Friday, every day with a different topic, whether it's women's performance or kids' shoes or men's shoes. So my hat's off to you know, her because this is nothing I could have ever pulled off.
It was fun that people got a glimpse into our family business. My parents were there supporting me, being the back end of everything, and halfway through the video I actually gave my dad the phone and let him take over for a little while. He is the ladies' buyer he is the men's buyer. So, why not?
What else do you want to tell your Saxon family, whether it be your associates or your customers?
We're trying any and everything we can think of, to weather this storm.
It's like one we've never seen before. And we'll be as creative as possible to try and get through this and come out the other side. We just don't know how big the wave is and how long the wave is going to ride.
Right now, it's not a fun ride. But, you know, we're trying to make lemonade out of all these lemons.
Unfortunately, like most people, we've had to furlough our staff and just everybody reaching out to me. They're my family. A lot of these people have even been here since before I was born. And, you know, the end goal of some of these creative options is to hopefully get some of them back to work.
But then to our customers, you know, thank you for your support. And this first video, like you said, was already viewed four or 500 times. And we've got a bunch of orders, and I just want to thank everyone for their support.
One comment that we got, which really hit home, was as long as Saxon has supported our community, the least we can do is buy a pair of shoes, so that'd be good, and I appreciate it.