The Week Here: How To (Consciously) Spend It

17 Apr 2020

As the world remains under lockdown, creative consultant and native New Yorker, Amy Tai, stalks the internet for the best independently-sourced retail news from this week.


Across the world, we are being confronted with our own mortality – forcing us to reckon with the question: what is essential? While Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cited the food workers, delivery drivers and warehouse stockers, Florida’s governor searched his soul, and came up with professional wrestling.

And therein lies the rub.

“Many generational attitudes have been tied to singular events that leave their imprint. It remains to be seen if this is one of them, but it’s not hard to imagine that it will be,” said Simeon Siegel, managing director at BMO Capital Markets. Ethical – or even spiritual – consumerism, which had already been brewing pre-pandemic, is positioned to be the next normal. Shoppers are more keenly attuned than ever to issues from labour practices in unseen warehouses to the fragility of supply chains dependent on a few overseas nations to produce even essential goods.

Independent businesses are by definition more agile, and often more innovative – particularly when it comes to environmental and ethical issues. Vogue Business reported that some brands are seeing this moment as “an opportunity to ramp up their sustainability plans,” while others like Toad & Co are splitting a percentage of online sales with specialty retailers in hopes of keeping alive a crucial part of the ecosystem.

Altruism is coming to the fore, with many businesses responding to the crisis with acts of kindness. To say thank you to NHS heroes, Grenson is giving away a pair of shoes daily. Streetwear label Ejder is producing t-shirts featuring community-submitted designs, with all proceeds going to the local hospital. Californian drinks start-up Haus unveiled a range of apéritifs co-created with chefs at the helm of beloved eateries from Seattle to Brooklyn – which will receive 100% of the profits.

“Wherever you are, we hope your spirits (both bottled and existential) are strong,” wrote Graydon Carter, Editor-in-Chief of Air Mail. Hear, hear! Regarding the former – alcohol sales in the U.S. are booming, with total sales up 25% in the beginning of April. Small breweries, however, are struggling; facing challenges from distribution to tightening on discretionary spending. It took five days for Perth’s Otherside Brewing Co. to roll out a new product at a lower price point – Plan C: Simple Ale – “100% inspired by current circumstances and the impact it is having on the craft beer [and the broader] community.”

And if you prefer your drinks booze-free, The Modern Milkman has ramped up operations to meet surging demand for their daily rounds in the North of England. “We’ve had hundreds of letters and emails saying how much people appreciate what we’ve done for them in this time of need. And that will create loyalty like nothing else,” said co-founder Simon Mellin.

Our allegiance matters. The British Fashion Council predicted that 35% of the UK’s emerging labels will fail before the end of the summer. We don’t need projections though, to grasp the pandemic’s profound impact on small businesses.

So shop like your community depends on it. Brendon Babenzien, founder of menswear label Noah, had this to say on supporting independent enterprises: “We do have to recognise that some of these businesses, these people, whether they be designers or store owners or restaurateurs… they are driving culture. They are symbolic of where we are as a society. We need to find a way to support them as consumers and in the places where consumers can’t support, the government needs to step in and make sure that culture isn’t lost.”

Let’s raise a glass to the pathfinders. May they all prevail.