Supporting Independent Retailers
As stores face challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, brands have been tasked with building partnerships that help their independent retail network adapt.
Here, Josh Higgins, president of OS1st, makers of the leading compression bracing product in specialty retail, discusses programs that keep local stores at the center of the larger story.
Tell us about some of the ways OS1st is supporting retailers and others during this time.
“In March we launched the OS1st Virtual Running Challenge, where we used our Strava running club to connect with our elite running community and support independent retailers. As participants increased their weekly mileage, they increased their chances of winning one of our prize packs. Each prize pack included a $100 gift card to their local OS1st retailer and $250 package of OS1st ‘Socks with Purpose’ products. It was such a success that we have decided to continue those challenges, increasing the gift card amount to $150. We obviously want more people in our product but more importantly, we wanted to use this as a way to keep our stores and their local community connected.
In April, we launched our ‘Not All Heroes Wear Capes’ buy-one-give-one campaign. People amaze me. There’s a lot of selflessness going on in our world. We wanted to do something fun for all the people that are working out there, putting themselves at risk, so that we can continue on with as normal a life as possible. During this campaign, we match qualifying purchases with a donation of our DC Comic superhero-themed calf sleeves to essential staff. A majority of the sleeves will be donated to Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore thanks to their local running store, Charm City Run, who partnered with us to not only collect donations but physically deliver the sleeves to medical staff. We will continue to work with our independent retailers to help as much as we can.”
How is Os1st staying connected to and supporting its specialty retail partners right now and why is that so important to OS1st?
“When stores realized they would have to close to comply with COVID-19 safety regulations, we knew many would be scrambling to enter the digital commerce world and, at least to begin with, might lack the capacity to transform their operations into online fulfillment centers.
Our drop ship program was created to help stores with e-commerce capabilities use our warehouse to fulfill OS1st orders. We also created a program for stores without e-commerce to use our website and receive wholesale credit for their customer’s orders. Once customers were set up in the program, our marketing team followed up with digital marketing support to help retailers use this program to connect with their customers via email and social media.
I would like to emphasize that OS1st is an independent-only brand. We implemented this program as just an opportunity to help, not to become a B2C company. Our MAP pricing and internet strategy has and will stay in place throughout this crisis. Our strategy is to double down on retailers by working with individual stores to come up with solutions that work for where they are right now, whether that is lending them our website and warehouse with the drop ship program or donating our product to the essential staff in their community, we want to make sure we all get to celebrate on the other side of this pandemic.”
What have you learned as a company during this time that can benefit you moving forward?
“One of our West Coast retailers had just signed on to our partner program when the pandemic hit — the display wasn’t even set up in their store yet. But because the owners knew first-hand how life-changing our Socks with Purpose could be, they signed on to our drop ship program using our website to receive wholesale credit for their customers’ website purchases. Three weeks after launching the program that store has more orders than any other store participating in the program.
When we saw that, we called and asked what the secret to their success was, and they mentioned that they took advantage of all the digital marketing, but more importantly, they already had 29 years of customer and community service backing them up. Their customers actually asked how they could support the store, and the answer was, ‘Place an order for OS1st.’ This put a huge smile on my face. Not just because of the selling of our product though that didn’t hurt. [laughing] It’s really what this business is all about: Building long term relationships with people on an everyday basis.
We are seeing the same lessons play out over and over around us. This is more than just selling products: It is about connecting with retailers, and empowering them to continue to connect with their community.”
How do you see the next few months playing out?
“This will be a slow process but I feel very good about where we end up in this industry long term. There has certainly been an increase in interest in at-home workout and fitness routines. We’ve also seen a renewed appreciation for the outdoors, which translates to more running, walking, hiking… I do believe the trend will stick and eventually create more interest in being in running groups — not just virtual ones, hopefully.
From a product opportunity perspective, with the jump in activity, especially from new participants there will be plantar fasciitis, knee pain, shin splints and hopefully some worn out socks too. OS1st will be waiting to help.”
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