The Luzon lockdown was a period of difficult decisions for Sabrina and Jerry Uy, owners of the homegrown children’s wear brand Gingersnaps.
When the lockdown was lifted in June, they reopened about 70 percent of their stores, but had to close the branches that were not doing as well even pre-COVID-19 (new coronavirus disease).
“It was a heartbreaking decision for us as we wanted to keep serving our customers and keep most of our staff working,” says creative director Sabrina, who started the brand in 1993.
But even as their brick-and-mortar stores have reopened, they’ve also beefed up their online presence with, for instance, a store on Lazada.
Late last year, the Uys launched gingersnaps.com.ph, in response to a market that was increasingly busier and would rather shop for its kids online. They’ve improved on the website during the downtime, says Sabrina. Customers can experience all the changes beginning August.
“We very recently started our personal shopper program,” she says. “Over the years, our team has developed a great relationship with our market. We’ve had the pleasure of serving our loyal customers by calling them, taking photos and showing them our new offerings. It’s been humbling to see how much support we’ve been getting from our customers in these very trying times.”
The personal shopper service is available in all their stores.
She says parents have been shopping for comfy tees and bottoms, as kids are cooped up at home. “Easy to wear and pretty at the same time.”
Gingersnaps also just launched its essentials collection of fun face masks, face shields and bucket hats with detachable face shields. “By August,” says this mom of two, “we will launch our line of craft kits—fun easy crafts kids and parents can do at home. It’s our own version of play therapy.”
Healing from fear
Sabrina recalls grappling for answers at the start of the lockdown. “There was so much fear and uncertainty within our team. Ironically, what helped us overcome this was one of the first things we did: We produced PPE (personal protective equipment) for donation. We found donors for the fabric and we gave the labor component.
“When one of the front-liners sent us pictures, there were no words to explain the fulfillment. The act of doing something bigger than ourselves was a huge factor in healing ourselves of the fear.”
Gingersnaps is rare in this age of “Made in China,” as all its products are produced in the Philippines. The owners want to maintain that to keep the jobs here.
Gingersnaps has conquered the foreign market, with franchisees in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia—all of which also had to cease operations because of the global health crisis.
The cessation of business during the lockdown was a huge challenge for the Uys. “While we had the majority of our management and production team working from home, it proved to be challenging since it slowed down a lot of vital processes,” says Sabrina.
“With cessation comes the loss of revenue. To counter these problems, we’ve had to further streamline processes and set goals. This is not entirely bad, as this forced us to take a good look at how we do things. I have a feeling that when things get back to normal, this lesson would have served us well.”
Sabrina foresees an immensely changed retail landscape postpandemic. “People will be more conscious about what they buy and the good—or harm—it does to their bodies and the environment. I think this crisis will change the psyche of the majority.”
The biggest insight of their team, she adds, is gratitude. “I think this is something we do not talk about but can be felt in the office. We are so blessed to still be able to do what we do best. Our team is so motivated, and we have all been working twice as hard. We realize that times are challenging, but we need to be able to move forward with hope.”
The goal, she says, is to continue serving what customers want. “We imagine how hard it has been for our customers and the kids, as well. This is something our team has been talking about: How do we bring joy and delight to our customers? That will be our focus in the months to come.”