The last blog story I wrote was published on March 10, 2020 and about a fun event we hosted in our Deep Ellum parking lot and the ongoing developments of our future Heirloom Haul Dallas location. Man, that feels like a lifetime ago. A world pre- masks, quarantine, homeschool (parents, I feel you) and wine home deliveries on the reg.
It was a world that I personally now call Flea Style PC — Flea Style Pre-Covid.
Like most businesses, Covid has rocked our world at Flea Style and Heirloom Haul and fueled a rollercoaster of emotions. As a brand built on events, brick-and-mortar shopping and in-person dining, Covid made us quickly take a deep look at our operations and challenged us to find authentic — and safe — ways to re-connect with our customer to survive.
The first pivot we made was putting our store’s products online. As our locations and restaurant were shut down, we scrambled inside our Dallas headquarters for weeks shooting, editing and uploading items to shopfleastyle.com for our customers to buy from home while sheltering in place. Initially, the idea was more of a fundraiser to give money back to our vendors (the last two weeks of March we matched 100% of gross proceeds from online sales and distributed them evenly back to our makers).
With each sale, we would break out a little happy dance in the office. We couldn’t believe the outpour of support for our small business and all of those we champion. After the fundraiser, we weren’t sure what would happen to our online sales, but orders continued to come in regularly.
I have always wanted a robust online shop, but to be 100% honest, it’s nearly impossible to succeed in e-commerce selling handmade, vintage and one-of-a-kind items. So much hard work goes into pushing a listing live. So when each listing is for a single good, the time and ROI aren’t financially sound for a company with expenses like ours. I’ve never been able to crack the code on how to make business sense of e-commerce, while staying true to our mission.
So here’s where a Covid silver lining enters: Over the course of those two weeks, I watched our team open a third store with no additional utility costs or rent fees. I watched us move hundreds of products for small businesses. And I watched our customers swoon on social media over their special packages lovingly shipped with handwritten notes, positive stickers and a sliver of sunshine during these dark times. I knew I needed to stop fighting online and find a way to make it work because our shopper was loving it.
My fire was lit. L-I-T, y’all. I knew I could find a way to keep this good thing going, but also make business sense. Enter Flea Style DC (During-Covid).
The solution was simple and one I’ve always known: To scale online and even in stores (and have way more inclusion in sizes), we must have depth in products instead of only single SKUs. As somebody that built brands on vintage and one-of-a-kind goods, that’s a tough pill to swallow. But on the other hand, as somebody that has built brands on supporting unique style and small businesses and wants to see these brands succeed, I knew I could figure it out I just had to change perspective (my motto, by the way, for 2020).
I instantly started brainstorming ways to put this plan in action and the clearest path was to find products that our customers love, in depth. I got with Hannah, our Retail Director, to map out our game plan. We started reaching out to vendors to bring more merchandise that they could scale. We started creating product that we could continue to re-order (hello, adorable hand-drawn bandanas, coffee mugs, paper goods and stickers!). And, Hannah and I started to find brands that offer pieces that our customer clearly loves after watching her buying pattern for the past two years that also mixes beautifully with a vintage duster, ripped Levi’s or her grandmother’s old brooch (or all three).
To budget and make room for this expansion, we needed to make some major changes. We built storage space. I bought more rolling racks, plastic bins and photography equipment. I tested items via social media “try ons” to gauge the customer’s style appetite, size preferences and favorite times of day to buy. We looked at areas we needed to help and hired accordingly. I studied sales reports like a detective cracking an unsolved mystery nightly.
While getting these necessary steps in place, Hannah and I have been carefully curating and buying fashion, jewelry and home pieces that we’re really proud of. We’ve gone to market to find closet staples — dusters, cozy sweaters, layering necklaces — that pair perfectly with a vintage tee or hand-crafted hat. We’ve considered all of our vendors’ goods in store, and tried to find pieces that compliment their clay earrings or fall coats.
Last week, we shot our first online collection that’s a pretty representation of this new mix (expect these pieces in store, too). Everything is meant to be comfortable, mix with items already in your closet and help your one-of-a-kind style shine. We plan to add items to the site daily, and larger collections about three times a month (we’re still figuring out our small teams’ capabilities). In addition to these new pieces, we’ll also be adding in my flea market finds and some vintage one-of-a-kind gems don’t ya worry.
The site isn’t going to be where we want it be for a while. We have lots to learn and want to get it right so we will take our time to get it there. But we’re so excited to finally lean into online and find a way to further connect with shoppers in and beyond our backyard. We’re also pumped to cast a wider net and connect with more shoppers now that we have a platform to offer more product!
Covid has been a butt kicker that I can’t begin to properly explain here as a small business owner of companies built on in-person event, shopping and dining experiences. But it’s also been the biggest blessing for Flea Style and Heirloom Haul.
I am so grateful for my family and team that have stood by my side during these challenging, frustrating and stressful times and helped figure out ways to tell Covid to shove it and that we will still succeed. We’re so excited to share our story more and more here on the blog, in stores and at shopfleastyle.com. We hope you enjoy what we have planned for you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your love and support.