I caught up with Satchel & Page Founder Daniel Ralsky to explore the impact of the COVID19 crisis on his New York-based small business.
About Satchel & Page
Founder Daniel Ralsky developed Satchel and Page after discovering his Grandfather’s old map case from WWII.
Daniel took that inspiration to develop gorgeous heirloom quality leather bags that are inspired by 1940s design.
Buoyed by a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014 that saw 599 backers pledge almost $230,000 to launch, Satchel & Page has been selling vintage-style briefcases, pilot cases, duffels and accessories worldwide ever since.
“In a rough category for the current situation”
“Well….we sell $400-$600 bags for travel and going to work,” observed Daniel.
Since many people are working from home, and many others have been furloughed or laid off, “we’re obviously in a rough category for the current situation,” he added.
A number of other companies have tweaked their messaging to help claw back some of their sales. CEO Wylie Robinson tweaked Rumpl’s positioning to emphasize their blankets’ role in comfort and security. Jon Shanahan, Co-Founder of men’s skincare line Stryx, quickly pivoted his brand’s messaging to emphasize how to look your best for Zoom conference calls.
That sort of approach doesn’t exactly work for heirloom-quality briefcases.
“There’s not much in terms of messaging that can change [the current situation], so we’ve taken a different approach,” Daniel said.
Taking a long term approach
Daniel is joining other entrepreneurs, like Ministry of Supply CEO Aman Advani is leaning into long-term investments and Boardroom Socks President Nathan James is revamping his website, in taking a long-term view.
“We are fortunate to be a lean, agile operation, so we have been able to adjust quickly to these circumstances,” noted Daniel.
We know our sales are going to be hit pretty hard in the short term so we are taking a more long-term approach. Rather than running a sale or asking our customers to buy something from us, our communications have been focused on encouraging them to take care of themselves, support local small businesses that might not make it through this crisis, and to reassure them that we are in it for the long term.
“As a company, as things are slow right now, we’ve been able to focus on projects that we never had time for in the past. So when this is all over, you’ll see us coming out with new designs and new categories,” he said.
Daniel also pointed out that all of Satchel & Page’s products come with a lifetime warranty, and it’s important to communicate to customers that they are in a strong position for the long term.
Impact on employees and supply chain
Most of Satchel & Page’s manufacturing is done in Italy. “Our friends out there have been hit very hard,” Daniel said. “To help our partners in Italy, we have placed purchase orders for when their workshops reopen. This ensures they can keep their workers employed during this crisis.”
The company is based in New York so, for now, their office is closed and employees are working remotely.
“We’ve been able to keep everyone employed and fully paid, and we plan to do that for as long as this crisis lasts,” he said.
“We are also fortunate that we have a strong inventory position, so our operations have not been impacted,” Daniel added. Their fulfillment is running at fully capacity and they are still shipping out orders as usual.
Supporting first responders
In the meantime, Satchel & Page is supporting first responders by donating to New York City Health and Hospitals. If you are able, Daniel recommends donating to your local food bank and/or Medshare.Org to help local hospitals dealing with shortages of supplies.
They are also purchasing gift cards from their favorite local establishments. Daniel also encourages customers to support their local restaurants and shops.
“These small businesses give our communities character, and I would hate to see what our world looks like if the only restaurants that survive are chains,” he said, adding “these small businesses don’t have lobbyists in Washington and won’t be receiving a bailout, so they need your help to make it through this.”
#supportsmallbusiness like Satchel & Page
I asked Daniel what people could do to support businesses like his. His first answer was to “please stay home and practice social distancing. If all of us do this, the sooner we can get back to a more normal state. That will help small businesses more than anything.”
Beyond that, Satchel & Page’s website is open for business, and has greats options for upgrading your return-to-work wardrobe. Their classic briefcases also make a great remote graduation gift.
Satchel & Page is also developing a home office collection, which will be released over the summer.
For more ideas to support small businesses, explore other innovative brands helping men dress sharp, discover professional performance clothing made from athleisure fabrics, or purchase a pair of blue light blocking glasses to help with working from home.
You can also buy a (non-medical) washable fabric face mask for personal use from one of the many consumer brands who are producing them.
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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