At a time when many retailers are struggling with depressed sales and revenue as a result of the unprecedented COVID-19-related physical distancing measures, some companies are thriving thanks to new and innovative steps they’ve taken to adjust their operations and adapt to the current environment. Toronto-based intimate apparel brand Knix is one example of a company that has embraced new digital strategies, which have translated into strong sales.
“We’ve really had to challenge the way we typically think about doing things and find new and creative ways to do business,” says Joanna Griffiths, founder and CEO of Knix. The company originated as an online business in 2013 and opened its first two physical locations in Toronto and Vancouver last year. Despite its digital roots, however, Griffiths says in-person interaction has always been a big part of the brand’s culture, through regular community events, photo shoots, testing products and other ways of interacting with customers.
The pandemic has forced the company to temporarily close its physical stores and find different ways of engaging customers. One of the first steps Knix took to adapt in March was to accelerate the launch of a ‘Virtual Fittings’ program that had been in the works for some time. The program allows customers to schedule a video chat, during which a Knix consultant can help customers find products suitable for them and assist with determining the right size. The sessions have been very successful so far, Griffiths says, with high demand for appointments and a strong conversion rate.
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To our loyal customers in Toronto & Vancouver, we have made the difficult decision to close our permanent locations in both cities until further notice. Given the recent developments regarding the COVID-19 outbreaks, we’ve put the health and safety of our staff and of our community first. What we know for sure is that social distancing is one major way we can play our part in limiting the spread of this virus. For us, what may be a difficult internal decision is the easiest human decision we’ll ever make. We’re thinking of each and every one of you during this difficult time, and we will continue to do so in the upcoming days and weeks. One promise we can make is that we’ll be there for you— virtually, always! Our team is dedicated to talking to you, everyday. We’re dedicated to creating lasting relationships with you, getting to know your wants and needs, and of course getting you into your correct Knix size, now and always! Customers, you can find us online at knix.com or knix.ca, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can chat with our support team, give us a call or send us a DM or a comment through our social channels. Send us a note, we’ll try our best to make you smile today. Stay safe, stay inside, we’ve got this. Love, Team Knix. 📲 https://knix.com/pages/contact
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“400,000 masks and gloves as well as 1000 litres of hand sanitizer. Every week we ship to roughly 75 hospitals, long term care facilities, homeless shelters and other community organizations. For 90% of the places we ship to, we are the only PPE they have received. When we took on this initiative, I didn’t foresee us becoming the critical source for so many organizations, it’s been an honour to help and we are so grateful for your support” @joannaknix on the Knix campaign to get PPE to frontline workers, which has reached almost $500,000 in donations. We knew our Knix community was incredible, but we’re continuously blown away by all of the love and support you have to give. When the world seems to be in a dark place, it’s beautiful to see people coming together to make it much, much brighter. Visit our stories and swipe up to read more on our blog, The Lift! #knix
“We’re finding that typically at the start of the week, we’re already at 95-100% capacity for the appointments,” she says. Since determining the right fit is so important with products such as bras and swimwear, the Virtual Fittings program helps customers feel more comfortable buying these products online.
“We’re removing some of the traditional friction points that are associated with buying something online,” Griffiths says. Given the popularity of the Virtual Fittings sessions, she says Knix plans to continue offering the program permanently.
Another adjustment that Knix made in response to the pandemic was to switch its annual warehouse sale, held in April, from an in-person to an online event. The expanded North America-wide reach of the online format translated into a significantly higher volume of sales. In fact, merchandise sold so quickly that what was a three-day event last year only lasted four hours this year.
“We sold more in the first 10 minutes of this virtual sale than we did over the full three days last year,” says Griffiths. “We had a really overwhelming response.”
At the peak, more than 35,000 customers were shopping on the site at the same time during the sale, which offered discounts averaging between 40%-60% off the regular price.
“For me, it was a very eye-opening experience,” Griffiths says, adding that the virtual warehouse sale will likely become an annual event for Knix. “It really shines a light on the power of e-commerce.”
Knix sales overall have been trending higher during this pandemic. April marked the strongest month in the company’s history in terms of sales, Griffiths says, as demand for loungewear, sports bras and comfortable intimates has been on the rise with customers spending more time at home. Even in March, loungewear sales jumped by 360% over the previous month, according to Knix.
“We’re really fortunate to be in a category that people are still interested in buying,” Griffiths says. “If you look at the broader consumer trends of what it means to be working from home, they want to be comfortable.”
Griffiths also attributes some of Knix’s recent success to its efforts to support healthcare workers during the pandemic. Specifically, the company launched a fundraising campaign in March to donate personal protective equipment (PPE) to Canadian hospitals. She says that initiative has strongly resonated with Canadians, given the significant challenges associated with PPE throughout this pandemic.
“We’re doing a lot to give back and support the community,” Griffiths says, “so that’s one factor that I think that is pertinent to the success we’re seeing.”