With a deep-rooted history in iconic Austin, Texas, Tiny’s Western Wear has long-been a staple for the fashionable cowboy.
Editor's Note: As statewide rules and regulations continue to change, please contact retailers for their latest store hours and delivery capabilities.
The store was opened in 1958 by Tiny herself, who ran the show until 2000 when Gloria Worsham took the helm. But it wasn’t until 2020 when COVID-19 became the catalyst that pushed the store’s online reach well beyond Austin. We talked with Tiny’s Western Wear Operations Manager, Tracy Halling, about that transition and how things are going now.
2020 was a crazy year – what does your 2021 business outlook look like?
It's looking very positive, more so than we ever could have imagined a year ago.
Did you face any challenges during the 2020 push for digital presence?
I would say that March of 2020, we got hit with, ‘What are we going to do?’ as much of the country was, and at that point we did some Facebook, some Instagram, but you know we didn't do very many posts, and it was kind of just getting out there, getting our feet wet a little bit, because we have a lot of followers that come into the store and purchase all the time. So, once March hit, and we got shut down with the panic, we decided that we were going to take money that we had and put it towards a new website and start doing online business immediately. Because I've done [a website] for another company, we were able to do it within about 30 days and get a website going. We feature a lot of different things [online], hats, boots, all kinds of accessories, scarves, jewelry. Gloria, who owns Tiny’s, her sister [Olga] has a wholesale company called Austin Accent. So, we had lots of merchandise. We were able to put it all up on the website, but with that said, it's not so easy once you get it launched. It's not so easy just to get out there and say ‘okay, this is going to start business right away.’ It's taken getting our feet wet and honestly doing advertising through the magazine, Cowboys and Indians, we were able to start initiating the website, and people have started using it now.
I think it's very important to be positive and listen to the stories that people are telling you right now through COVID. I think that a lot of people need to talk right now, and so just listening helps people buy. It's kind of a strange thing, but empathy I think is a big thing right now, and I think if we tie that all together through Facebook, Instagram, and people walking in, I think you're going to be a survivor.
How have your digital strategies changed throughout the last year?
[The website] has been kind of a reassurance to what we do just in the store, but Gloria has been amazing with keeping up with new trends, clothing, [and] boots. She's kept the store full, and customers are coming in safely with masks. You know it's a small store with lots of stuff in it, and so, it's turned around. There were probably about four or five months of fear, you know, ‘what was going to happen?’ with everything being closed, but [Gloria is] a survivor.
What is your best tip for online growth/engaging with your audience?
I think being able to touch hearts of people that are watching, constantly staying fresh and trying to [post new things] every two to three days. [For] people coming into the store, I think it's very important to be positive and listen to the stories that people are telling you right now through COVID. I think that a lot of people need to talk right now, and so just listening helps people buy. It's kind of a strange thing, but empathy I think is a big thing right now, and I think if we tie that all together through Facebook, Instagram, and people walking in, I think you're going to be a survivor.
Did you attend WESA market in Dallas? And are you traveling for any trade shows in 2021? If so, what is your outlook?
Gloria’s sister Olga owns the other store Austin Accent, and Austin Accent has shown at WESA for 30-plus years. So when COVID happened and the transition to Dallas, Austin Accent did not choose to participate because of COVID. It was just for health reasons. So I'm sure that [WESA] had quite a ball thrown at them, a fireball actually. Although, with that said, in January, Olga and Gloria, do go to the WESA show. Olga usually does the buying at the WESA show, because we're already there. So she works both with the retail store but also owns the wholesale company. So, this last January, they did go up to WESA for a day and did find some new things for the store. I think it was an effective day, but I think that they needed a little more time. They could have gone up for a couple of days, but again with the situation of staying in hotels and all of that I think it was not an option. We're only three hours away from Dallas. They will probably be going to the WESA show in August on the retail end and then going forward in 2022 back to the wholesale and retail.
It's taken getting our feet wet and honestly doing advertising through the magazine, Cowboys and Indians, we were able to start initiating the website, and people have started using it now.
Are you expecting to see a return to in-person shopping this year?
[Tiny’s] didn't really miss a beat. After June of last year, things kind of got back to normal and of course we had the social distancing in the store, masks and all that. But right now, it is picking up with spring here, summer coming on, new product coming in, there are a lot more customers starting to come in right now. Austin seems to be back to full time.
Tell us about your brand/store style – what does style mean to you?
So you can find all kinds of stuff in the store. It is, I would say, 75% traditional Western. It caters more towards men. And I would say that it caters more towards a Hispanic crowd, although we can cross over to others. We carry all kinds of Resistol, Stetson hats. There's a full line of hats - a full wall of them -, hat bands of course, any kind you could possibly imagine; horsehair, leather, beaded, women's, men's, all kinds of stuff, bolos, belts, caps, even American fighter shirts...Wrangler jeans, Levi's jeans, and lots of different makers of boots. We carry Corral and Cuadra. We have a full line of boots, and the store needs to probably be about twice the size that it is. But we have a lot of people that come in the door and want to sell to Gloria. She's very open to new things, and she knows what she wants. She's very strict on ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ ‘This is right.’ ‘This is not right.’ She knows the market. She's been doing it for a long time.
Give us your best style tip!
That's an interesting one, because we have customers [from] all over. I mean we have musicians. We have tourists. We have a Hispanic crowd. It really just depends when they come in what they're looking for, and Gloria will hands-on show them all the new stuff, colors, make suggestions. We've got everything from just a plain Jane button-down men’s shirt, to the real bright, colorful Resistol shirts. She'll work with them. As far as the style tips, this year we're seeing a lot of bolos and hats, of course. Now we're going into straw season so there are all kinds of hats. But this year, what's interesting is it seems that the more expensive goods are what are selling like crazy.
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.