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Life is Good almost declared bankruptcy last year. Here’s what the CEO says saved the retailer

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Life is Good was set to file for bankruptcy last year, according to its CEO, but the retailer managed to revamp its business strategy in weeks to have its best year ever during the Covid pandemic .

“When [Covid] hit, 50% of our business was wholesale … and that business died in a rush, ”Life is Good co-founder and CEO Bert Jacobs said Tuesday at UKTN’s Small Business Playbook event. .

“We were in a situation where we were facing bankruptcy, and we had to cut at least half of our staff. That’s when we said … let’s really go on the offensive. custom stuff and let’s see what happens. “

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Instead of ordering shirts, sweaters, hats and other accessories in bulk already printed with logos, slogans and other designs, Life is Good started ordering batches of blank items last year. , explained the CEO. Then, monitoring consumer sentiment, he began printing on-demand inventories containing phrases about staying home and quarantining, wearing masks and other trends related to the pandemic.

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“We started talking about anything that was culturally relevant, which at the time was a lot of tough stuff, but we tried to keep it light,” Jacobs said.

Bert Jacobs, Co-Founder and Managing Director Optimist of Life is good

Paul Morigi | UKTN

The strategy clearly helped. Not only did this help boost customer morale, it was also a financial achievement.

“2020 ended up being the best top line we’ve ever had in 27 years, and the strongest bottom line,” Jacobs said. (The private company did not provide exact sales figures.)

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“2020 has shown us how we should run our business,” he said, adding that sales in 2021 “are still growing like crazy” because Life is Good is sticking to the business principles it took over. over the past few months.

“We work for the consumer, and everyone has to do it,” Jacobs explained. “The [retailers] who survive will be those who listen intently and capture the data. … The consumer gives you the answers. “

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A number of retailers weren’t as lucky as Life is Good last year, as they faltered under pressure from the health crisis. Dozens of people have declared bankruptcy and thousands of store closings have been announced by retail companies, many in the clothing category.

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There is, however, a sense of renewed optimism that demand is starting to rebound as consumers leave their homes and prepare to socialize again. Americans will be returning to work, in droves, in the coming months, and families are looking to book long-awaited summer vacations.

“It really is a community of rational optimists,” said Jacobs. “I say rational optimists because we recognize that there are challenges in the world … that it is difficult … but we decide when we wake up in the morning to focus on what is good in our lives. , what is right in the world, more than what is wrong with the world. “

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