COVID-19 has stores temporary closing to the public while brands are furloughing people and/or shutting their doors. Where does this leave the independent sales reps? The hard-working people on the front lines, whom make their living from commission and pay big sample bills. How are they being affected by all this?
We caught up with Austin Olivares to see how this pandemic is affecting his business. Austin covers LA- Central Cal, NM, AZ, and Vegas for Von Zipper, Flojos Sandals, OAM, FATHOUSE, Metal Mulisha, Beach Party Accessories, and Peter Grim Hats. He is also a sub rep for Matt Bovard Of Oneill (Clothing/Wetsuits).
BTR: COVID-19 Hit the surf industry hard. Shop’s had to close their doors while brands furloughed or laid off employees. How has it been as an outside sales rep? Are you still working with accounts? Are all the brands you represent still functioning?
AO: As an outside guy that’s on the road a solid 4 days a week its been quite a drastic change being home so much. The fortunate side of repping so many brands is that I’m still able to generate some income from a couple brands that I sell to my online guys. Zappos in particular has been crushing it with Flojos for me, so there’s a positive. And Von zipper has been doing alright on there too. All my brands I currently work for are still shipping though, but its down to one in house, one or two higher ups and thats all. Right now I’m ok, but if this were to go on for a few more months I would be tripping. I have signed up for all things that were on offer from the state and the feds back in mid march. I have to see a dime though……
BTR: Have any of the brands you represent come up with retail support campaigns? If so, please tell us which brands and what they are doing?
AO: One of my brands, FASTHOUSE has just released an awesome program four our accounts. We made a flyer for the accounts to post on their social media to shop on FH.com, in return each account has their own code, when they go to check out the customer will get a 20% discount, the account also will get a 20% kickback in the form of a credit memo, and they’re paying the rep of that account a 5% commission.. Really awesome to see one of my brands being pro brick n mortar and show real love. Running this special now until end of may too.
BTR: Are any of your retailers doing something different that is helping them succeed right now? What can you share that may help another retailer who is struggling.
AO: Any account that has a strong social media is still selling some stuff, mostly higher end things like suits, boards and skateboards. But they’re posting constantly to be in the customers face and being pro-active.
BTR: On your Instagram you did a post expressing how it sickens you, that top brands are advertising deep discounts on direct sales while mom and pop shops are suffering during these tuff times. Please tell us your thoughts on how this will impact the core shops now and when the pandemic is over?
AO: I was super bummed to see how quickly some of the top brands in the industry were so quick to think of themselves first and race to the bottom on pricing. It was sad to see and I can’t just point out one our two brands, it was a TON! What they don’t understand is that most consumers that shop surf brands and pay full price have little to any loyalty to any brand, its price and looks driven. Right now, a lot the brands look the same with different logos. That being said, when one brand deep discounts it hurts all brands. Makes them all look like they’re a rip off or something, you know? But I do know my key surf guys/accounts are well aware of what was going on and took notice. I think they’re gonna take action when shit goes bak to norm with either dropping them or making the brands give them deep discounts too. I would, seems fair… As my mentor Matt Bovard says, Were just the icing on the cake nowadays.
BTR: What’s your advice for the Surf Industry?
AO: My advice, just know you’re not in this alone, every account is dealing with hardships right now, every rep has lost their form of generating income. It’s temporary though and things will get better soon.