As we shared recently on socials, “the first half of 2020 has been anything but expected. Deadly bushfires, a worldwide pandemic, and a critical campaign for equality.” After taking the time to reflect on our brand and ourselves, founder Bec talks about what this means for Robe moving forward with a renewed sense of purpose and hope.
Our Learnings from COVID-19
We have always promised complete honesty in this space and, to date, I think we have delivered. That's why it was important to us to write this blog – an honest reflection on the impact of COVID-19 on Robe as a brand and team.
Please let me start with a disclaimer – this is not meant to be a big moan. I feel like Robe is one of the fortunate brands. As a small business, we have adapted quickly and efficiently to dramatic change. We qualified for assistance from the government and we have been able to continue trading online. But, like many other businesses across all industries, the impact of COVID-19 has required swift and powerful change – which is pretty confronting when all you want to do is curl up and rock yourself to sleep!
As a brand that revolves around travel and luxury, the suspension of international flights and even interstate holidays has hit us hard. Currently, the only people in Australia who can visit to the warmest spots (ie. the most idyllic holiday locales) are those who already live nearby. However, we’re hopeful that Queensland will soon open its borders to our southern neighbours who are in desperate need of sunshine!
Though this means that at a time when we would usually be helping holidaymakers get ready for European summer, there has been no travel at all – and consequently, no demand for our products. On top of this, a number of major opportunities that we’d been working towards were postponed. We had been planning a major activation in our hometown of Brisbane, expanding into retail with a national stockist, AND showing at a premium trade show internationally. After months of hard work, it’s disappointing not to be able to follow through.
Slowing Down and Embracing the Change
While the logical thing might have been to make a major pivot and change our offering completely, this would mean moving away from resort and into loungewear in line with the changing needs of our customers. I’ve seen so many amazing brands do this successfully, but I didn’t feel it was the right move for Robe. I created this brand because I saw the need for it, and I still do. These unusual circumstances will not last forever, and I think people are already starting to think about travel and holidays. Because we need it.
So instead, Robe decided to slow down. Stop, think, adapt.
We stopped the release of our third collection mid-drop, which was a VERY hard decision. We paused our social advertising so we did not add purchase pressure in uncertain economic times. We slowed everything down – posting content, reaching out for collaborations, organising events and running competitions – and we reflected on how we do everything. We gave ourselves space to consider how to be more conscious and more intentioned with our decision-making.
We used this time to take Robe back to basics. To remember why we started and what we are about. To focus on our domestic market, the beautiful country we live in, and our incredible fresh and relaxed lifestyle. Robe has always been more than just a product - it is about the women we design for and how they want to live their lives.
This resulted in some key changes.
The first: change our production. We will now be producing less. Smaller production means less waste - fortunately we have an excellent relationship with our manufacturers, which has allowed us to make this shift. While this may mean our Robes are a little harder to get hold of, it also means each piece will be even more exclusive.
The second: we will be introducing two new offerings on our website towards the end of this year. Both completely in line with the Robe lifestyle of travel, holidays, relaxation, luxury, champagne drinking and loads of laughing. Cannot wait to show you!
The third: no matter what, we will not move away from what Robe is about despite what’s thrown at us - having fun, embracing life, kicking up our heels, and dancing on the beach (or tables).
So, thank you COVID-19. While it has been absolutely devastating and there may still be some very difficult times to come, we are appreciative of the lessons it has taught us, and we look forward to creating a new normal with you all. And we simply cannot wait to see a bit more of this incredible country we call home. See you at the beach, champagne in hand.