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A virtual hug for 2020

Posted on January 02 2021

A virtual hug for 2020

A message from Mark Jeynes, the owner of Me & Henry

 

What a year

We want to push 2020 away right? Confine it to the back of our brain with padlocks on and no combination code ...

It started off so well as all New Years start off - full of hope and that list of promises we always make to ourselves that this year we REALLY will carry out.

I personally recall going to Hong Kong with the co-owner of Vignette in December 2019 and us talking about this supposed new virus with our manufacturer.

I also remember the exact moment - as we were visiting some of our boutiques in January - driving around Texas in a rental car - that it was announced on the news that the first case of COVID had been detected in Washington. And we sat there asking ridiculous things like ‘can you imagine if this really became a big thing’. I mean there’s no way is there.

Within 7 weeks the other co-owner of Vignette was struck down with the pesky virus when they were still numbering cases and 2 weeks later I also got it (we are both fine now!) but wow.... how quickly it all happened. How fierce and sad and nasty and unforgiving.

As the entire world gradually fell into lockdowns and stay at home orders, boutiques and retailers were left with inventory and worry, Governments were panic stricken with no pre-prepared plan, the Queen was moved out of London, the travel industry almost collapsed, the arts and sports worlds ended overnight, and we all hunkered down. There was even talk of Coronation Street running out of film (for any American reason this- you’ll need to google it - as a huge lifelong Corrie fan you need to understand that this was very distressing lol)

But during that time something happened and the whole world came together. We all felt the same worry and sleepless nights about our businesses and parents and health. We all craved hugs and dinner parties and connectivity with people in our lives. And we all coped. Miraculously so.

Not taking away at all from the sadness and unfair loss many have suffered because of this virus - in an attempt to try and see the silver lining in a dark grey cloud - we did all come together and ALL of us were unafraid to show we got caught out like deer in headlights.

And when we weren’t teaching our parents how to suddenly use something called FaceTime or Zoom or talking them through how to remotely order their groceries online so that they don’t need to venture out - we were making banana bread (in the U.K. this suddenly became a huge craze!), producing sourdough starters, working out what ‘home schooling’ entails and watching Tiger King or TikTok

In the U.K. the sun shone. Pretty much every day since the first lockdown started. 11 weeks of glorious weather - possibly the best Spring and Summer on record. We all learnt how to make cocktails and try to make the best of things alongside new words like furlough and social distancing.

And we also learnt how to shop online. As if we weren’t already - but the silver surfers have leapt forward years in terms of adopting online shopping and embracing technology. Amazon has been rubbing its hands with glee along with manufacturers of hand gel, toilet paper, lounge pants and masks.

Despite such a roller coaster of a year and at times nothing but staring blankly into space about what’s happening... we need to hang on to the positives.

Families with and without kids have never spent so much time together. Dogs think every day is Christmas and cats have been driven mad with all the attention they don’t usually want. A very strange moment in history like this (hopefully) will never happen again - when most of us were home for so long. No distractions. No nights out. No plans. Just family and lovely times together.

In London on my street there was a definite blitz mentality. The entire community came together using WhatsApp to chat and support. We had socially distanced drinks in the street for the 75th VE Day. We all came out of our houses to sing happy birthday if anyone happened to be missing out on what would normally be a get together with friends and every Thursday at 8pm the entire nation came out onto their doorsteps and clapped for carers. For 10 weeks we banged pots and rang bells and clapped to thank the amazing NHS staff for all they were doing to keep us safe.

People became kinder. More helpful and genuinely neighbourly. And as the owner of Me & Henry I can genuinely say that also came from customers. Parents - grandparents and boutiques who buy the line. Because 2020 just happens to have been one our best year ever for sales, we’ve passed 35k followers on Instagram, we have more new accounts than ever and more love from existing accounts than we could ever have imagined.

We’ve had amazing support from social media celebrities such as Mrs Hinch, Tori Roloff and Jessie James Decker who lovingly tagged us in photos they posted which helped us massively. But we’ve had photo after photo posted of adorable babies and kids wearing our clothes from our most important VIP’s - you!

After I realised I had COVID in March I decided I wanted to write a typical Me & Henry book for parents to be able to read to their little ones as it’s a tough subject to cover sensitively - that free digital book I shared has had over 900,000 reads!

In the same year, we’ve shipped 100,000s of Me & Henry products in our Spring and Fall deliveries to stores who stuck by us and didn’t cancel or panic - in fact they ordered more.

We shipped both seasons on time thanks to our incredible support team in Hong Kong who not only produce our goods but also ship them all for us. We worked with them virtually to design two new seasons- which I’m not going to lie is PAINFUL - but Fall 21 is done and Spring 22 in the bag.

We’ve had determined and amazing reps across North America continue to be there for our boutiques and still operate market weeks and embrace technology and do virtuals from their showrooms for those that couldn’t come. And as a result we have more stores than ever buying Me & Henry. Bigger orders than ever and as a thank you and support I personally managed to visit over 35 stores this year in Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee - 23 of which we did in 6 days! 770 to go... 

We’ve been blessed with gorgeous kids who have modelled for us and their lovely parents who were delighted to be part of two photo shoots ensuring we could continue to sell - when photos were more important than ever if customers couldn’t come to market.

And we’ve had you! Mums, dads, grandparents, store owners, website owners, fans and followers.

One thing is for sure during this weirdest of times is the local store that stayed open, the boutique that did kerbside pick ups, walked you through their lovely stores on iPhones and set up transactional websites overnight - they need your love and affection now and forever. And there are more than ever. People who have lost their jobs and decided this is the year they’re going to follow their dreams and start up that kidswear store. Bravo to them! I have been wowed by the amount of new stores  

I am not an online shopper. I’m a true retailer. I love the drama of a well merchandised store. I like the experience of shopping. I want to touch and feel and chat. So I craved going shopping and the first day lockdown ended I rushed to the nearest store with glee. But those amazing small stores need you more than ever. If we all fall back to Amazon and same day delivery we kill the high street. We put that feeling of lockdown and no choice and no personal shopping, into a reality ten years from now when all boutiques and local independents have lost to the ‘rainforest people with same day delivery’.

So a plea to you all to continue to support your local stores. Embrace and rejoice the cute little shop on the corner that sells Guatemalan coffee and vanilla bean ice cream. The boutique that will offer you a shower gift service and send your baby a birthday card every year. The boutique owner who remembers you by name, what you like and actually smiles at you. Your store needs you!

Happy New Year to you all. 2021 is going to be amazing. A baby boom is on the way. A vaccine that would normally take years has safely been created in 12mths. We have a way out and a way forward. Let’s make sure our fave shops and smiling faces of store managers are still there on the other side.

So as we say goodbye to 2020 I’m sending it a small virtual hug. Let’s face it. It doesn’t deserve a real one but it HAS had its silver linings

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