50 Businesses, 50 Solutions: At Gondwana, a virtual style of engagement

  • Gondwana & Divine Clothing Co. in Concord has taken a variety show-like approach to social media engagement during the pandemic. Pictured are staff members and owners (from left), Sara Mathews, Amanda Perkins, Liz Corrigan and Pam Peterson. Courtesy

  • Pam Peterson (left) of Gondwana & Divine Clothing Co., the boutique on North Main Street in Concord that she owns with her daughter, Amanda Perkins. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 7/4/2020 4:06:32 PM

It’s not the 25th anniversary year that Pam Peterson was envisioning for Gondwana & Divine Clothing Co., the boutique on North Main Street in Concord that she owns with her daughter Amanda Perkins.

Instead of hosting sales and events to celebrate a quarter-century in business, Peterson and Perkins have been scrambling to shift sales online, engaging with their customers virtually and trying to keep the same fun, friendly vibe that has kept customers coming through their doors for decades.

“We’re trying to be as creative as we possibly could,” Peterson said.

Gondwana & Divine Clothing Co. was at an advantage when the shutdown stopped all in-person shopping. The business already had a robust website that was linked directly to the inventory. Despite that, 98% of their sales were done in-person.

“Customers generally just come into the store to try on and purchase,” Peterson said. “We’re good at styling and outfitting.”

To encourage customers to move online, Peterson knew that she would need to provide a service, more than just offering sales online. To create a value proposition for customers to engage remotely, Peterson created a virtual trunk show.

A trunk show — typically done in person — allows vendors to sell directly to customers, often at a discount. Peterson thought having a virtual trunk show would be win-win-win: customers would get a discount, vendors would be able to push merchandise, and she could encourage sales without having to outlay cash to purchase more inventory.

Peterson contacted one of the store’s most popular lines, and they were game for participating in the virtual event, which offered steep discounts posted on the website and on social media for a limited time. In preparation the five staff at Gondwana & Divine Clothing Co. turned to strengthening the boutique’s online presence through more social media posts and email marketing, while making an ordering and shipping process virtually from scratch.

“It was a huge change to how we operated,” Peterson said.

The efforts were worth it, however.

“It turned out to be really successful,” Peterson said.

After the first trunk show, Peterson wanted to keep social media engagement high. She and the staff started doing live videos on Facebook and got a “huge response.”

“It’s kind of funny because we’re not professionals,” she said. “We have a lot of fun with it.”

Under normal circumstances Gondwana & Divine Clothing Co. hosts “Shop Happy” events each Thursday, during which customers can have a glass of wine and see what’s new in the boutique. Those events have now moved to Facebook Live, with the same music and banter. Staff might model new inventory or show how different outfits can be put together. There’s trivia and raffles that customers can participate in by commenting on the video.

“It’s like a variety show,” Peterson said. “Customers really enjoy that.”

Gondwana & Divine Clothing Co. is now open for limited in-person shopping, and Peterson estimates that sales have returned to about half of what they would normally be. For the first two-weeks that the shop was open, online sales outstripped in-person, but during week three in-person sales made up about 70% of revenue as more people were comfortable returning to the store. Peterson believes that in-person sales will always be the boutique’s strength, but she’s glad to have strengthened the shop’s online presence, particularly with the pandemic being so unpredictable.

“The bottom line is that none of us can predict the future. All we have to do is take everyday the best we can and move forward,” Peterson said. “Everything that we learned during the eight weeks we were closed will benefit us in  the future.”

This story is part of the 50 Businesses, 50 Solutions series, shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative, that aims to highlight how business leaders across the state, from mom and pop shops, to large corporations have adapted to meet the challenges and disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus in the hopes others may be able to replicate these ideas and innovations. Tell us your story here. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.


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