The American-made clothing brand has taken 2020 in stride, and in style.
Editor's Note: As statewide rules and regulations continue to change, please contact retailers for their latest store hours and delivery capabilities.
Schaefer Outfitter has been making “ruggedly attractive” a thing since 1982, and it isn't slowing down this year. We spoke with Schaefer Outfitter president Rick Grant about the business and what is resonating in the Western fashion world right now.
Was your storefront shut down? Has it reopened?
[The stores] were closed for roughly two months. I feel very fortunate to have the employees that I have. We have great employees, so [the employees] did work in both stores that we had, but we were closed, and we just re-merchandised. We did inventories. I did the best I could to keep them busy. I didn’t want to lose them, so they were never furloughed or laid off or anything like that. We kept everybody busy. Other than stores being closed and keeping those folks busy, the rest of the operation was really business as usual.
What does your current business environment look like? Is it different than normal for you?
The store business really was nonexistent until about the end of August. We had opened up somewhere around the first week of May. We ran on short hours through August. We were just looking for an uptick so we had shortened hours and days that we were open, so that’s what we published and promoted socially. On those off-days [employees] came in and worked in our headquarters. Then things started picking up that last weekend of August, and we continued to see an uptick there. Then by the middle of September we went back to normal business hours, and now I would say our sales are good. We missed events. There were events getting canceled when typically we would have very much a record day, so we don’t have those big days, but we’re blessed to have some of the big events that are in Vegas move temporarily for this year to Fort Worth. We have PBR finals. We have the NFR, PRCA Convention in December. We’re getting geared up for that and look forward to that business. You really can’t get caught up completely, but we expect to have a very good fourth quarter at our stores as long as we’re not affected by a COVID flare-up
What has been the biggest challenge in adapting to this “new normal” the retail world has taken on?
I’m a glass-half-full guy. We come to work every day like nothing is going on, and we always have, so we’ve approached it as that, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. The whole thing could get canceled at the last minute. Fort Worth Stock Show canceled their event in January, so some of the plus business we pick up, we kind of lose on monthly averages. It’s planning day-to-day to do the best you can with what cards you’re dealt.
How has your business adapted to producing digital content and sales?
As far as digital, as far as our social efforts, obviously we work very hard on our Instagram. I think from a manufacturing standpoint we own it. We work very hard putting on content every day. It’s loved by our followers. Facebook and Google have been doing exceptionally well for us. As far as how that all shakes out with our website business is that our sales overall are record-breaking, and so it’s doing well. We’re a little bit challenged from a manufacturing standpoint — I speak for everybody on this — is that getting product made is difficult, whether you import it or, as with us, we make most of everything in-house. The suppliers of our byproducts, our fabrics, our zippers, our snaps are extremely slow. Most of them are still sort of on a shutdown so it’s taking weeks longer to get things made that we need to continue the success we have.
Has any content stood out as particularly successful in terms of resonating with your audience? Why has that content done so well, in your opinion?
For someone that’s new, [Instagram] is the first introduction to Schaefer, seeing the quality of photography that we have. So that’s the beginnings of it. You have your street appeal first, and then when they actually get to the website they see the quality of the product.
What other highlights have you noticed?
Our new shirt line is absolutely incredible. It’s very fair-priced, finest fabrics, finest tailoring, the details, all that has just been great, so that’s been very well-received so far. We have a new wool jacket that’s doing great. It’s beautiful, the Scout Jacket. Everything is selling, but there are some favorites for sure.
People always gravitate to the new stuff, so we’re trying to keep that flow coming in in spite of it all.
We have 30 new products in our catalog that we mailed out, so we’re doing the best we can to keep things fresh and exciting, and our photography this time around, we’re proud of that. The store down in the Stockyards is doing the best it possibly can at this time, and we’re looking forward to these special events coming up to help us get back on track as far as the physical store presence that we have here in Fort Worth.
What are shoppers looking for right now from Western businesses? Have you noticed any buying trends?
For what we do compared to other U.S. makers who are much smaller than us, much more expensive, we’re production-line makers of premium Western and outdoor clothing, so people are able to look at that. They are drawn to things being American-made. We have had to do a little bit of importing on some of our styles that we’re working on. We’re trying to get materials we’re unable to get here, and folks are excited about that as well.
Do you have any tips for other Western businesses looking to take their business online right now?
There has to be a plan. It can’t be random, and there has to be effort into the quality of the posts, and as far as Instagram goes, posting product-specific things and promoting the product is not what the Instagram follower wants to see. They want to see lifestyle shots. If I put the Scout Jacket on a model and say ‘here is my new Scout Jacket,’ I’ll get 200 followers. If I take that Scout Jacket and have a cowboy riding a horse in action with a rope in his hand, I get 2,000, so big difference.
This interview is part of an ongoing series that W&E is conducting with retailers. Click here to peruse more stories and interviews from the retail industry.