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We’ve all had to make adjustments in our lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses and companies were forced to adapt as well and — unfortunately — for many, the adapting process resulted in either a sink or float outcome. Countless small companies, such as local restaurants and “Mom-and-Pop” stores had no choice but to close their doors permanently.

It’s devasting that so many businesses have struggled during this time, but there are some companies that have risen above the challenges and, through their resilience, adaptability, and agility, have redesigned a new kind of success.

Something some of these brands have in common is that they began expanding upon, or creating, a direct-to-customer (DTC) channel for distributing their product.

Obviously, there digital shopping is nothing new. In fact, it’s steadily grown over the past decade and a half. Online sales booming were booming well before 2020. However, the pandemic escalated it even more when in-person shopping experiences became limited to essential stores such as supermarkets and pharmacies. Wholesale brands that were able to make a smooth transition to DTC channels were better prepared to stay afloat.

Kerrits is an affordable equestrian brand offering apparel and accessories. Up until very recently in their history, Kerrits has been an entirely wholesale operation. This would have posed a challenge when many of their retailers  had to temporarily shut their doors in the early stages of the pandemic. Equine suppliers were not considered essential business — although the 2 million U.S. horse owners; 7 million riders; and 7 million employed in the industry would disagree.

Kerrits had started transitioning into a DTC channel in 2017 after some advanced email analysis pointed them in that direction. This transition led to Kerrits being better positioned than many outfitters to handle the challenging year of 2020. Their DTC channel alone grew 150% according to Retail TouchPoints during the past year. Without the DTC options, Kerrits would likely have suffered a loss.

Along the same path, the sports brand Nike reportedly ended nine of their wholesale accounts this year, while developing their DTC distribution channels.

Competitor Under Armor can also be seen leaving some of their wholesale business agreements and replacing it with a stronger DTC strategy. In fact, according to RetailDive, Under Armor saw their DTC revenue reach up to $540 million in October. That was a 17% increase!

The strong results of moving towards DTC strategies are a logical outcome, given that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic that has kept us inside our homes for almost a year now. These are on track with the digital trends and increases we have seen in online shopping and delivery services during this time.

It’s impossible to prepare for a disaster and as exceptional as COVID-19 is, it was no exception on that front.

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