I see 3 trends in consumers’ shopping habits in the next period: First, everyone has become much more price-oriented. As revenues were affected, the price / value ratio of the products became much more important for the consumer. The second is a responsible and flexible form of consumption. So instead of buying something, customers have begun to make decisions that they don’t make in advance about renting or delaying the need. Finally, care was taken to support local businesses; The customer sensitively chose businesses such as neighborhood restaurants and local brands.
By the beginning of 2020, you have taken over the business from Ayşen Zamanpur, the founder and chairman of the brand, and started to manage a brand with 200 stores in 26 countries. On your 100th day as a CEO, you faced the Covid-19 pandemic. Can you briefly describe before and after this process?
Yes, it was a bit of a surreal change for me; It is almost like the world retail has turned upside down with my takeover of the CEO role. 🙂 This was a joke among our family and I always hang out with my mother by saying “You gave me a hand grenade with a pin on time, thank you.” Joking aside, I was so ready for this job under normal circumstances, and I was actually running the CEO role with my mother for a while already. Although she had been officially willing to take over this post for the last two years, we postponed it a bit; but finally, we agreed on January 1, 2020 in the middle of last year. Of course, while making these plans, this pandemic process, which was not in the accounts, changed the work and workload in a way I could never predict. My working hours increased to 18 hours a day at a time and I found myself struggling with all the difficulties of this process until 4 am every day of the week. Since my stress and crisis management is strong, I have not had much difficulty in adapting to the workload, but I have been fighting an incredibly intense struggle for almost 6 months with my team. Despite this effort, we have just begun to compensate for the decline in the industry and our brand, which is the simplest signal that the road ahead will still be difficult. Nevertheless, as I have always talked to my team, we have experienced historical problems (coup, terrorism, currency crisis, etc.) in the last 10 years as a brand, as a sector, as a country, but we have overcome each of them, I have no doubt that we will overcome this, even though it is very difficult.
Silk and cashmere! There is a challenging production, supply and marketing chain starting from Inner Mongolia to Turkey and from here to the world. How could you handle this process in the pandemic?
As you said, our product is not only special but also difficult to supply. As cashmere is a very delicate texture, the number of facilities where it can be produced worldwide is very limited, so we have been producing in inner Mongolia, the homeland of cashmere, for 28 years. As an addition to all the difficulties in the process of pandemic products coming from China customs / tax legislation changed again, we had to bring all of our production to Turkey. Although this may sound impossible (especially at a time when we were working remotely), we were able to achieve it thanks to the fact that we had started in the past seasons and our team’s very busy work. For this, we prefer to focus on the advantages it will bring to us in the long run, even though it is a difficult decision to implement due to taxes.
Many textile brands have turned to antivirus- antibacterial products with R&D and innovation, they tried and are trying to produce masks and health textiles and export them… Have you ever had such works?
Yes, first of all, I can say that we offer the most comfortable face mask in the world. Our masks, which are both healthy and hypoallergenic because it is pure silk, have quickly taken their place among our best-selling products since they started to appear in our stores. We have also developed alternatives from different natural tissues and shawls with the same pattern, which is in high demand.
With the pandemic process, almost everyone, from 7 to 70, went through a digitalization process, experienced a rapid adaptation and transformation process. What have you done about it, as Silk and Cashmere?
As my childhood coincided with the beginning of the general transition to the digital age and I have always been very interested in this issue, digitalization started much earlier for us. Since my mother is a visionary in this regard, as one of the first brands to establish the website, we had an active page in 5 languages in 1995. Apart from that, since we have made the digitalization process one of the top priorities of our company since 2015, when we switched from home to work, it was a very smooth transition in general. We have eaten the fruits of the investments we have made in recent years in both remote access and e-commerce points and we have opened new doors for ourselves. As an example, at the end of July, we closed our head office and became Turkey’s first brand to work remotely for good. Thus, we have been successfully managing our homes for months and decided to continue our team-mates’ satisfaction and efficiency by putting it at the forefront. We also have exciting projects in terms of parallel development to the renaissance experienced by retail in the next period. We take adventurous steps in the fields of video, mobile and personalized service to improve and digitize our customers’ experience. One of them is our video product promotion project, which we started last month and is the first in Turkey. This service, which is particularly highly appreciated by our VIP customers, will soon be available for all our products.
What kind of future awaits when you look at consumers as an international brand and retailer? Do you have plans and business strategies accordingly?
I see 3 trends in consumers’ shopping habits in the next period: First, everyone has become much more price- oriented. As revenues were affected, the price / value ratio of the products became much more important for the consumer. The second is a responsible and flexible form of consumption. So instead of buying something, customers have begun to make decisions that they don’t make in advance about renting or delaying the need. Finally, care was taken to support local businesses; The customer sensitively chose businesses such as neighborhood restaurants and local brands.
We also see three clear desires for consumers’ wishes: First, customers definitely want a digital alternative to everything. Secondly, they want the product / service they will receive easily and instantly. Finally, they want a new store experience. In addition to our digitalization process, which we have been working on for years, we take care to add creative and secure applications in the retailing department in order to offer these three requests (and more). As the last 6 months have shown us, from now on, retail and customers will not be the same. In order to succeed in this new retail, we will have to work behalf of brands, develop a lot, and be defeated unrenewed. As Silk and Cashmere, I have been very confident in my team at this point because as the brand that has signed many of Turkey’s first (the first cashmere brand, the first brand that brought Black Friday, one of the first websites, etc.), we have always been innovative and courageous in these matters. In the next period, we will continue to take part in this entrepreneurship and the top lines of the new page of retailing.