Havaianas, loungewear brands step up sales through lockdowns

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The lockdowns were hard on most industries, but this brand found the right fit for its expansion plans despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Terry SA — the importer and distributor of Havaianas and Dupé flip-flops, Aura Athletica sportswear, and clothing and accessories shop Common Thread — emerged from the global health crisis with a steady income stream, propped up by surging online sales and from renewed demand for their products.

As millions of Filipinos lost their jobs due to lockdowns, the company managed to keep most of its employees.

"The minute the lockdown happened, the most important thing for us apart from their health was their financial safety, so we looked into creating a reseller program." Terry SA co-founder and president Anne Arcenas-Gonzalez told CNN Philippines' The Exchange with Rico Hizon.

The group's Employee Entrepreneurship Program allowed workers to resell pairs of Havaianas and other products as they waited for the return of physical outlets. "If you multiply that nationwide, it was really able to provide us with very good cash flow, and in turn, gave them job security," she added.

The retail firm looked for new ways to sell even when their physical stores had to be shut down for months. Marketing and sales shifted mostly online, and by now contributes 23% of the business.

Their brick-and-mortar workers moved to man online channels too, such as front desk staff now serving as customer service associates for the online stores of various brands. Corporate offices have been downsized while warehouses were expanded to cover more orders and deliveries.

Marketing also migrated to the digital realm, knowing they have a huge reach here. The group also ventured into more online marketplaces, ads through apps like Viber and Telegram, and even live selling.

True enough, online sales soared by 400% compared to 2019.

"Havaianas is really our breadwinner if you will. Flip-flops are the choice footwear for people who are staying at home and working from home, so we have really seen a real spike in sales," Gonzalez said.

Aura Athletica also benefited from more people doing home workouts, which double as loungewear, too, while treats and trinkets from Common Thread brighten up the work-from-home set up for customers.

Despite the online success, Gonzalez said mall outlets — and now, even supermarket sales — are here to stay.

"We find that people go to the stores with intention... It's really retail therapy — when people are in their homes for this long, and they have an opportunity to step out and feel safe and shop, there's a real opportunity for us," she added.