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

Small business owner, Heather Taylor, sits down with Senior Retail and eCommerce analyst, Alexis DeSalva, in the second part of a two-part interview (Read Part 1 here) to discuss navigating the current retail challenges as a female-run small business. Heather discusses leveraging social media and experimenting with new services and features like FaceTime sales chats and curbside pickup. She does this all while caring for her two young daughters and helping to provide for the at-risk members of her community.

Alexis DeSalva:

It’s hard to predict, but how do you foresee your business changing as we start to go back to normal? Obviously rental is hard to predict, but do you think you’ll go back to brick-and-mortar even with just the one store, or do you think you’ll focus more on social commerce and eCommerce?

Source: HeatherTaylorHome.com

Heather Taylor:

The store was always icing on the cake. It’s not the future, and I’ve known that. It was a fun opportunity and it worked for us, but it’s never been the focus. Before this, my focus has been on e-commerce and social media campaigns; it’s where the future is heading. But I love having a store and I love being able to create that real-life experience for people and make it beautiful, especially for a product like ours that’s tactile, it’s important for people. I think in the future this will continue – we did a day of curbside pickup at the shop last week and it went really well. And on social media, it’s me, so I did a day a couple of weeks ago before the curbside and posted that I was at the shop and asked who wanted to FaceTime, and I had a couple of FaceTime sales appointments. And it was really cool; I love talking to people and helping them figure out what they need, whether it’s pillows for their outdoor area or whatever, and it’s more about that. We’ll continue to do curbside but I’m not going to focus on doing it every day; it’ll be experimental, but people are really interested in it.

AD: I feel that right now is the time to test and learn those different initiatives, whether it’s FaceTime or curbside because it’s such a strange time for everyone. Everyone is forced to abandon their hesitations or preferences and roll with it.

HT: Totally! Everyone who’s doing curbside could easily just buy online, but we’re all a little desperate for our old life and this feels like a step in the right direction.

AD: That is the benefit of being smaller because you can be more nimble and have leeway with testing, say curbside pickup on a Friday.

HT: Yes, and I’ve never been busier in my entire life, between the demands of work and suddenly having my two small daughters, who were in preschool, now home all the time, and trying to make this seem good and normal for them and trying to do a good job, while trying to meet my work demands. I can only do what I can do and for social media, it’s an easy way to engage with customers, and everyone is on (social media) because they’re at home.

AD: You mentioned the girls being at home, and that’s another challenge. I hate to ask women – moms in particular – how they balance everything, because no one ever asks a man that, but how are you navigating the new normal? Is it day-by-day?

HT: It is. In the first seven weeks, I was struggling. It was so hard with them because I was up really early to work and up really late working and not sleeping enough and during the day, doing a terrible job, I felt at least. As it’s become clearer to me that this is going to go on for, I think a really long time, I’m trying to be informed to make good decisions. I’ve been thinking lately about other plans and am trying to make good choices, but it’s really hard. It’s important to have the facts so you can plan. If I thought it (the pandemic) was going to wrap up in a couple weeks, I’d continue to crush it out with them, but if I really think about how long, based on science and facts, this is going to go on for, I can’t sustain this level so making choices based on that is important. My quarantine doesn’t look anything like making bread or bingeing stuff on TV. I hope I’m handling it okay, but I’m struggling.

AD: Summer is almost here, Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and that’s traditionally such a big season for entertaining. Even though so many of us are at home and will continue to spend most of our time at home, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate. Personally, I’ve found that something as simple as even setting the table makes time at home feel less monotonous and a bit more special. What are some of your favorite Heather Taylor Home pieces that you’d recommend for at-home entertaining throughout this summer and our time at home?

HT: It was my husband’s birthday a few weeks ago and I set a tablecloth as a picnic blanket in our back yard and said out loud “Heather Taylor Home works!” because it completely lifted my mood. It just felt so special. Obviously, we’d be doing something so different if this wasn’t COVID-19, but considering our circumstances, this instantly made this feel like a party. And I felt that way on Mother’s Day too. The pillows are the unsung hero because they make a space feel cozy, really fast. They instantly elevate a space and make it feel so different; it’s instant décor that takes it up a whole level. Get a few extra pillows for your couch in bright, happy colors, or a tablecloth that you’ll use all the time and they wash really well, but really, whatever you can afford. If you can afford a new tea towel for your kitchen that’s $24, that’s going to be a mood lift. It can feel like a special change, and it feels like color therapy a bit to me.

AD: There is an emotional response to décor, and it is an easy way to brighten up or change up a space without doing an overhaul.

HT: Exactly. You’re not necessarily going to re-do your tile in the kitchen, but maybe get a couple new tea towels and hang them over your sink and make a special moment for yourself. It’s just about special, tiny, cozy moments.

AD: I need to get some pillows for myself now.

HT: Summer is coming and those are normally such big entertaining periods, and we’re not going to have the same experience but we’re still going to want the feeling of a special, summer gathering. We have to adjust our expectations, but you can kind of get it by creating the scene for yourself.

AD: That’s such a good point and there is a nostalgia aspect. You have to adjust some of your expectations, but if you can get something that brings back the smell, the sound or the feeling, then it can still be special.

HT: Totally. Pre-pandemic, I used to always say the décor and linens are sentimentally tied. We’re missing so much – graduations, parties, all the milestones – but you can still create a beautiful moment for yourself that hopefully, you’ll remember.

Heather Taylor Home face masks are available at heathertaylorhome.com. For each pack purchased, 10 masks are donated to those in need including medical workers, first responders, social workers and the homeless population.