Tumbarumba Outfitters, NSW Snowy Mountains
Tell us about you and your business
About 10 years ago I started searching for my new home as Sydney was becoming unbearable for me. It took 4 years but as soon as I set foot in the little town of Tumbarumba, I was home. As I have always loved good fashion and clothing I thought why not sell it, hence the beginnings of Tumbarumba Outfitters.
How have you been impacted by COVID-19?
The year 2020 started very badly for us. The Dunns Road bushfire started a few days prior to the end of 2019, it was shaping up to be a fire like we had never seen before so the entire Tumbarumba township was evacuated (it turned out that the town was to remain practically empty for almost 2 weeks). The fire arrived on New Years Eve destroying around 20 houses (including my own), countless sheds, 100’s head of livestock, 100kms of fencing, thousands of HA of pasture and countless kangaroos, brumbies, emus and all sorts of precious wildlife. My shop, Tumbarumba Outfitters, was closed from Boxing Day to mid January. Finally the smoke had cleared and the shock of what had transpired was fading so my wonderful staff and I gathered together and tried to get back into normal life again. We had a huge sale that really got our wonderful community involved, despite absolutely no tourists we were going well, until, Covid 19.
We made the decision early on to close the shop and trade only on line. Our website had been terribly neglected, we were always too busy was the excuse, very quickly we found that things had to change, get our website up to speed and engage with facebook and anything else we could think of.
How have you adapted to the restrictions?
We at Tumbarumba Outfitters have always prided ourselves in providing exceptional customer service. Covid-19 wasn’t going to change this so we found new ways to keep this up: pick up (we do embroidery on workwear and sports clothing) and home delivery of items purchased over the phone/internet, appointments at times that suit my customers to have a personal shopping experience and lots of phone calls helping out wherever we can.
A huge part of our trade depended on tourism, this has obviously ground to a halt for the short term. I am sure after Covid-19 tourism will come back stronger than ever. Australians will have become more interested in exploring their own backyard instead of someone else’s.
What have you learnt over this time?
The future can not be taken for granted. My purchasing has drastically changed. Who knows what the next spring and summer will hold for retail and tourism. I am not prepared to outlay large amounts of money (as I used to) in preparation for the coming seasons. Focus on the now, make the best that you can of what you have, don’t look too far into the future. I have found customers are less selfish now, instead of “it is just not quite right, I really want it another shade paler” they are now saying” it is great, it will be just fine”
The majority of my suppliers source their goods from overseas, many of these are now finding supply difficult. We have been relying far too much on overseas suppliers. I have always tried to find and support “Australian made” the disruption that Covid-19 has created only strengthens this endeavour. It is imperative that we support and in turn will create more and more “Australian made” companies. These times have shown that we need to be vastly more self sufficient in so many ways.
We are taking every opportunity to learn new skills, we are taking advantage of the vast array of online courses for Social media marketing, Facebook development etc. After all of this my staff will have a number of new skills that will benefit them in many ways and in any industry.
What do you see for the future of retail?
Retail has changed forever. People’s buying habits will change, they will become used to purchasing more online. What they are buying will change as well. I feel that the customer will be after quality rather than quantity. After being confined for this time we have all learned that we don’t need 10 pairs of jeans, 20 shirts and 50 pairs of shoes, rather, quality and style will be more important.
There will always be a need for a shop front as some customers still love the shopping experience, it will be up to the retailer to provide an exceptional experience to give them more reasons to keep coming back
From left, Lucy, Liz, Elspeth and Jo at Fashions on the Field, Tumbarumba races