Alexis DeSalva Kahler
Alexis is a Senior Research Analyst at Mintel. Alexis focuses on US Retail and eCommerce reports.

October is National Women’s Small Business Month, so for the next installment of the Female Founded series, Mintel Senior Retail and eCommerce Analyst Alexis DeSalva Kahler, sat down with Brooklyn-based small business owner, Eva Dayton of Consignment Brooklyn. In part one, Eva shared how she got started as a business owner, including her decision to focus primarily on consignment retail. In part two, Eva discusses leveraging social media and experimenting with new services such as curbside pickup.

Alexis DeSalva Kahler:

How big is social for the business?

Eva Dayton:

It’s pretty big. We sell a lot of things over DM’s (on Instagram). When it’s good, it goes fast. I really feel like my brain started working differently when I was walking to work one day early in the lockdown and asking myself “what are we going to do”? The store wasn’t open so I was trying to get everything online and realized, we have to do curbside (pickup) and we have to do virtual (shopping).

ADK: So you weren’t doing any of that before the pandemic?

ED: None of it. Nobody was really.

ADK: Especially in clothing. You think about it for something like groceries, but you don’t think about curbside pickup for something like a dress or pair of shoes. But now, people need it, they want it and they want to know how they can get it.

ED: And they want to support small business, they really do. And it took weeks to get everything together to make sure that we were offering a service that made sense. We weren’t just going to throw up something that wasn’t explained or well-thought. I wanted to offer it, but people had to understand what we were doing.

ADK: And it has to feel authentic for your business too.

ED: Exactly, and it took a little while to figure it out. We’re a small team, so we had to pivot and do all those things but make sure it’s right. And we’re still tweaking!

ADK: But that’s good too because if we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that you can’t just do the same thing all the time. Or you wouldn’t be here.

ED: Yep, and I got information from what the other small businesses on the block were doing as well.

ADK: We talked about this push and we want consumers to shop local and shop small, and it’s great. But have you seen that actually reflected in your business, like through online growth or increased engagement on social channels?

ED: Definitely more growth on Instagram, but on the website, it’s still tricky. If I have a big sale, it’s gangbuster and that’s great because there’s traffic, so that means people are looking. There’s traffic on the site and that’s a good thing because even if it’s not a sale, people are still interested.

ADK: And that’s a good indication because we’re in a recession and a lot of people can’t be buying clothes or aren’t thinking about it, so if people are looking and are engaged, then that’s a good sign especially as we head into the holidays. What’s your approach to tackling the holidays this year?

ED: We’re planning on putting a lot of amazing accessories online.

ADK: That’s a good idea because even if people don’t need or want new clothes, an accessories purchase may be easier to rationalize and is an easy way to dress up your old clothes.

ED: Yes, and we’ll do a gift guide where you can click-to-shop right on the guide. And we’ll also offer gift certificates, we sell them a lot.

ADK: That’s going to be important too, especially if consumers can’t see each other and celebrate in person.

ED: Exactly, you can do an online gift card. It’s interesting because we don’t know what we’re getting in. It’s hard for us to plan something like a (holiday) photoshoot weeks in advance because what if that merchandise has already sold? When you have really good stuff, you want it to go straight to the floor to sell right away, especially great seasonal pieces like coats, leather, and sweaters.

ADK: Have you seen more interest in the front-end of the process, in consigning?

ED: Totally. I’ve never seen so much consignment in my life. People have moved, gained or lost weight, don’t want something anymore, aren’t working in an office anymore, there are so many reasons. People are just thinking differently.

ADK: Before the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about circular fashion, meaning rentals and resale. And I think they’re going to be impacted differently. Needs have changed and many people may not need or want to rent clothes anymore – and pay a subscription fee to do so – but on the other hand, if consumers can score a deal or make a deal and get really good quality items through secondhand then there’s a lot of potential.

ED: Absolutely, and I think that people who are working from home now are thinking and acting differently. Even shopping local; people are taking walks around the neighborhood for their lunch breaks just to get out and they don’t have to go far. They can come to this block and get a gift, get their hair done, pick up a sweater and feel like a normal person and not have to travel far.

ADK: That’s a great point. Who are some other female small business owners that you admire?

ED: Marcia Patmos (of M.Patmos), she’s across the street. She’s a hard worker. Jessica Richards from Shen Beauty, she just reopened her store and is another really hard worker. A couple of people I’m thinking about aren’t in business anymore, unfortunately, but I have a good friend who owns a wine bar in Manhattan called Jadis. I don’t think she’s had a day off since they’ve been able to reopen.

ADK: I don’t know who got hit worse – retail business owners or restaurant and bar owners.

ED: It’s very hard. They’ve had to change hours and build things to accommodate customers outside, and it’s expensive!

ADK: It really is. Back to retail. Who are some of your favorite designers and brands and what does well at the store?

ED: My personal favorites – I love (old) Celine, Isabel Marant, Levi’s especially vintage Levi’s, cowboy boots and I love The Row. At the store, Doen sells, Isabel Marant, Ulla Johnson and a lot of sneakers, like Golden Goose and Vejas. Coats also sell really well; everybody’s into a puffer coat. We have such a broad range of customers, everybody’s body types are so different that it really varies. We could sell jumpsuits all day long.

ADK: Jumpsuits are truly the best. I love them. They’re one and done. Dress it up, dress it down.

ED: Absolutely, tuck it in your boots. Wear a heel. Put a blazer on, or put on a turtleneck underneath.

ADK: They’re the perfect work-from-home piece, especially for Zoom meetings!