2020 has been a year of challenge for almost every business. Early in the year, LumberUnion was excited about their apparel rolling out through brick and mortar, but COVID put a stop to that. Disappointed, the spring and summer did not deliver any good news either. The Seattle-based apparel company was in survival mode as customers spent money on masks and household cleaners and not much else. Holding onto as many staff as they could, the company kept employees for as long as possible.
By summer, having said goodbye to most of their team, the partners were now not only leading the company, but actively running every part of the business themselves.
Rolling up their sleeves
The team took a step back and focused on three key areas: 1) their customers, 2) ecommerce and collaboration, and 3) telling their story.
They spent a lot of time in conversations with their customers. They added gifts to each purchase and conducted follow-up outreach to every person that touched their business. The feedback about the quality of their products made the team feel good, but also gave a deeper connection and reminder of why they are doing what they are doing. Sustainably-made apparel for the new American, resonated with their customers – American design, American cotton, American manufacturing for the new American.
Getting their hands dirty
The heartbreaking reality of saying goodbye to so many talented people forced the team to roll up their sleeves and take on everything that makes the company run. Joseph Motta, Director of ecommerce is not only hands-on with the ecommerce mix and strategy, managing every ecommerce partnership, but also with fulfilling and shipping orders and chatting with customers in his spare time. CEO Shane Boudreau is digging into Facebook and social media algorithms as well as email marketing campaigns, and giving interviews on industry podcasts. Founder & Chief Development Officer Anthony Bergin is actively engaged with grassroots customer engagement, managing all social media channels, as well as running manufacturing and brand management. Leadership is leading and doing. “This forced change has brought us all so much closer together and almost allowed us to reinvent our business from the ground up.” Says Boudreau.
Although LumberUnion works exclusively with premium fabrics, it was important for them to reach out and get involved with online deal sites. “Zulily has been a great partner throughout the pandemic and has exposed us to an audience we would not have otherwise reached. We are having fun sharing vintage product with customers on Etsy, and the surprise big mover in ecommerce is Walmart's online store where LumberUnion apparel is now available.” Says Bergin. “Even though we are nowhere near our goals, leveraging three different types of online storefronts, in addition to our own site and listing on Amazon, keeps the company in a forward motion.”
“The market has changed forever. What we are doing has changed forever. But the why has never been more important. The shift to work from home life, buying less, and buying on purpose is now more of a customer focus, which is LumberUnion’s sweet zone. This downtime has enabled us to refocus on manufacturing standards. Working with our friends at the California Fashion Association, the Economic Development Team, and the city of Los Angeles, we have been able to engage with next-level manufacturing that we are really excited to talk about soon. In short, LumberUnion expects to be the first American brand that provides total transparency in production from seed to hanger.” Remarks Bergin.
“We could have gone one of two ways - given in or fight. We chose to dig in and fight to make things happen. It's an all-hands, hands-on environment and we love it.” Says CEO Shane Boudreau.
The LumberUnion difference
“LumberUnion is different. The way we produce our clothes, the way we choose our materials, our fit, our color waves, they are all unique. In a world of digital clicks, it is challenging to communicate all of the great choices we've made. We have tried Instagram influencers speaking about our sustainability. We have tried to talk about our relationship with AmericanForests.org.” States Boudreau. “In a world of content saturation, communicating our unique brand and apparel became more difficult as traditional retail and the malls closed, and digital started to dominate. To move the needle forward, we started with our website, writing articles and stories about our business and the industry that could provide insight into why we are doing what we are doing and how important that is to the environment and people.”
LumberUnion has had a rare opportunity to reset. The pace that the market has changed has been accelerated and is now faster than ever. A lot of large companies will not adapt at the required speed. We have made it our mission to lead the change.