This Sale Makes A Case For Online (Fashion) Shopping In The COVID-19 Era

There are lots of things we’ve been asking ourselves in the throes of this global health crisis, including (but not limited to): WTF is Dalgona coffee? Are these allergies or is it COVID-19? Watch the show or read the book? One particular question that resurfaces with each new SALE! email screaming its way into our inboxes is whether or not it's ok to indulge in some good old retail therapy during a time like this. We don't mean turning to the internet for ordering essentials like groceries and non-medical face masks. We’re talking about the moral dilemma of delighting in the vibrantly hued goodness of a new dress (with a cool $50 knocked off its price tag!) that promises a stylish summer on the other side of all this. Before you go clicking over to buy or delete that bargain dress that's been idling in a virtual cart, we have a different kind of sale for you to consider from one small business owner with a BIG idea to help her struggling community facing the long-term economic damage of coronavirus.
“I’ve been confused and conflicted about how to push forward in these times. Is it OK to push products right now? How can we lend customers and brands support?" asks Rachel Gannon, founder of the L.A.-based, off-priced e-tailer Cara Cara (think T.J. Maxx but for all things cool indie designer). In an act of solidarity for the independent brands both she and her customers value tremendously, Gannon has launched what she's calling the "Support Sale" to assist over 30 independent fashion businesses and their employees.
Despite the bleak outlook for fashion as we know it, Gannon’s business is uniquely positioned in the troubling climate of shifting consumer needs. As an entirely digital destination adored for its generously marked-down goods, she says Cara Cara has actually seen a jump in sales along with more engagement on social media from concerned followers and fans. While limited access to funding and the impossibility of shooting fresh content are the main hurdles Cara Cara must overcome, Gannon has expanded her busy little corner of the internet by involving even more under-the-radar brands in a 7-day COVID-19 relief sale. In addition to featuring labels like Baggu and Gravel & Gold at up to 70% off the retail price, 10% of proceeds from the sale will be donated to the City of LA’s Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund. It's an invitation for anyone who can shop to do so now (and get a mighty fine deal) while supporting the local businesses and communities that need it the most.
“I was actually nervous putting my idea out there, wondering if I totally missed the mark, but we immediately got emails back [from independent brands and designers] thanking us for the support and innovative idea,” she explains. “It was great to be able to utilize our network to really help out where we could and touch brands we otherwise wouldn’t have connected with. It turned into a bit of a snowball effect and before we knew it, we had over 30 brands involved!"
Despite its good intentions, the Cara Cara sale doesn't address all of the concerns associated with online shopping in the COVID-19 era, most significantly that of putting factory workers, delivery people, and others involved in the process of shipping out orders at an unnecessary risk. It's a valid point, Gannon says. Delivery services like USPS and UPS are following guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the safety of their workers. Shoppers can also contact the customer service teams of certain retail operations and request a hold on dispatching their personal orders all together until a later (read: safer) date.

"I’ve had customers do that for their Cara Cara orders and I think it’s really thoughtful. Of course, we are a small enough company where we can manage this, not all can," Gannon explains. She recommends getting to know the brands you're ordering from by reaching out on Instagram and asking about how they're protecting their fulfillment teams. These inquiries can facilitate a more honest relationship between companies and consumers and may even push an industry in flux towards greater levels of transparency.
Cara Cara's dramatic markdowns on thousands of goods also mean that the brands involved probably won't make much money from the sale, but they will benefit from a boost in online exposure and the opportunity to plan for the inevitable logistical challenges ahead. COVID-19 began to escalate during the seasonal transition from winter to resort collections, which lands just before the launch of spring merchandise. Now that retail operations have come to a screeching halt, companies are left with an influx of product but nowhere to offload it all. In the very least, Cara Cara is that place for independent labels with inventory backup issues.
So there really is no perfect way of navigating this crisis, and no one knows how retail will (or won't) evolve in the coming months. What we do know is that beyond adjusting quickly with each unexpected twist and turn the virus tosses in the path to life post-COVID-19, companies can't lose touch with how their customers are reacting to these changes. First and foremost, we care about the health and wellbeing of our families, friends, and neighbors. We also have our own finances to worry about. But, as members of the fashion community, we still recognize the way small business owners have shaped the creative core of retail, forming a passionate heart that pumps beauty and authenticity into the industry. Cara Cara's sale is a step towards keeping that passion alive.
Click over to Cara Cara to shop the Support Sale, here.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.

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