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24 July, 2020 - 01:21 By Tony Quested

Luxury footwear retailer sees 300 per cent sales spike during lockdown

Model wearing Fairfax & Favor footwear boots

Norfolk-based luxury footwear retailer Fairfax & Favor has notched a 300 per cent spike in sales during the coronavirus lockdown. 

And the boom is continuing as restrictions ease with the firm bucking the downturn trends experienced in the wider market.

The UK’s £48 billion luxury sector has been hit hard by the pandemic which continues to have a huge economic and psychological impact, with the purchasing of large ticket items hugely affected. The sector has seen a 60 per cent decline over the first six months of the year.

Fairfax & Favor is a British fashion brand, established in 2013, selling luxury leather goods across the UK and internationally. While smaller players and luxury stores like Harrods have struggled during the pandemic and cut jobs, the Norfolk-based online retailer has seen booming sales, despite the closure of its retail store, B2B channels and the cancellation of trade shows which the brand admits was, initially, a major concern for the bottom line.

Rob Cooper, the brand’s head of operations, says: “At the start of the year we were excited to introduce customers to our new spring/summer collection, including sandals, loafers and and espadrilles, but then the pandemic hit and, like many other luxury retailers, we were concerned about the impact of the virus on high-end goods. 

“Fairfax and Favor sells luxury leather goods that are bought to be seen, such as boots, handbags and purses, so we were worried that with people in lockdown and unable to go out anywhere it might see people shying away from splashing out on a pair of premium boots or a handbag that they can’t take out to show.” 

In a surprising reversal of fortune though, lockdown saw the brand inundated with orders from stuck-at-home Brits feeling the absence of big ticket items like holidays or expensive meals and evenings out – and who were instead treating themselves to buying a luxury item online. 

“We saw huge interest almost overnight,” says Cooper. Stuck inside and looking to cheer themselves up it seems shoppers were pushed online and having a ‘treat day’. They couldn't purchase big ticket items such as holidays but they could enjoy a new pair of luxury shoes.

Cooper said: “Demand really has been incredible. We’ve launched some limited editions ranges and they’ve sold out in six minutes!”

Image courtesy – Fairfax & Favor

Fairfax and Favor’s current top selling product is the Brancaster Sandal, which has seen a 320 per cent increase in orders during lockdown. The brand credits the success to its ability to continue offering a first rate experience as competitors fell short.

Cooper says: “When lockdown hit many of our competitors were impacted heavily and had to close entirely, or didn’t have the ability to move their entire focus online, as stock was tied up in other channels. Some simply couldn't meet online demand and the expectations from consumers.”

“That wasn’t a problem for Fairfax and Favor, who were able to cope with a huge surge of demand that far outstripped its peak seasons and may have overwhelmed other businesses; this was primarily due to their refined focus on online sales. 

“We saw as many orders in May as we did in November last year during our busiest peak season to date, but we were able to manage the surge in demand without missing a step because our ecommerce operations were geared up for online sales and handling these unpredictable spikes in interest. 

“In fact, we were able to maintain next day delivery throughout the crisis, and that has helped to set us apart from competitors who struggled to deliver the same high levels of service as they did pre-Covid. 

“We refused to lower our standards. If anything, with more people at home, we saw a huge opportunity to reach a larger audience and turn them into loyal customers – but that required us to continue delivering an outstanding service, even during the most testing of times. 

“Luxury customers, even during a pandemic, rightly expect a premium experience that matches their expectations. If they don’t get that the first time, because you're not quick enough, or because the website isn’t easy enough to use, they probably aren't coming back.”

The firm credits its tech partner, Brightpearl, a popular operations system for retailers selling online, for helping the brand manage the huge spike in demand while still managing to get its luxury leather goods into the hands of customers as quickly as possible.

“We’ve been delivering 99 per cent of orders as next day delivery during the pandemic with less staff. Brightpearl has been essential to our continued success,” says Cooper.

“We’ve relied on Brightpearl’s ability to automate aspects of the buying experience, from orders to shipping, to save us time, power our ability to get orders out the door quickly and continue delivering first class customer service.”

The business is now focusing on its next season collection and believes the wider luxury sector will rebound. The signs are pointing to a swift recovery: there were queues outside Harrods and Bond Street boutiques this week as shoppers unleashed their pent-up demand for luxury goods.

Cooper said: “I have no doubt that the luxury sector will rebound as things return to some degree of normality but I’m also confident shoppers will remember brands like ours that didn’t make excuses and continued to provide stellar service during the pandemic – and that this will heavily influence buying decisions in future.”

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