The Ups and Downs of Making during a Pandemic

The Ups and Downs of Making during a Pandemic

Times are tough for many industries with the state and local economic shut-downs to help slow the spread of the novel Coronavirus. At Batch, we bring you local goods from a wide variety of makers—from apparel to homegoods to food—and each one has experienced the economic downturn in different ways.  

The Ups

Surprisingly, some of our makers have experienced an uptick in sales as a result of the pandemic. I don’t know about you, but judging from my Instagram stories feed, it seems the pandemic has caused more than a few of my friends to up their at-home cocktail game. Can’t go to the bar? Bring the bar to me!  

This is where a product like With Co., Walker Feed Company, Southern City Flavors, or White’s Elixirs comes in. Their cocktail mixes are ready-made, and you just add the alcohol. Tailor-made for quarantine!

Brad White of White's Elixirs for Batch

I asked Brad White of White’s Elixirs what challenges his business experienced during the safer at home order: “Keeping up! We’ve been fortunate to enjoy the increased demand. It’s really picked up. But,” he noted with caution, “We’re in a tricky spot because we use perishable goods as ingredients. How much inventory should I carry? Is this a temporary boost during the pandemic? How permanent will it be?” Even upticks in sales are tinged with cautious optimism for our makers. 

Diversified sales channels have helped White’s Elixir find a sustainable balance. “My stuff is carried in brick-and-mortar retail stores throughout the country, and there was a pause in sales for about three weeks [when those stores closed],” White added. “But, then my online sales went through the roof. I’ve already sold 100 more units than I did last year.”

The bottom line for White: “I know times are tough for everyone, and I’m glad to help people find a semblance of normality.”

The Downs

Many of our makers’ sales depend upon in-person gatherings and store foot traffic that disappeared overnight. Conferences and weddings have been canceled. Brick-and-mortar retail has been shut down, and is not opening back to the same amount of foot traffic. 

Melanie Overby, one of the owners of Prohibition Popcorn, shared some of her pandemic struggles in our recent conversation. The popcorn company was poised for growth in 2020 and had made a significant investment in the business just before the shut down. “Our plan was to redo our packaging this year. It took almost nine months from design to touch a bag. We were planning to update all bags, the website, and purchase a machine for sealing bags. I ordered around 14,000 bags... and then had zero sales last month [in April 2020]. I spent $6,000.” 

Melanie Overby of Prohibition Popcorn for Batch

Overby noted, however, that she isn’t pessimistic yet because she was conservative about the growth and investment. “I had saved money and had the money to pay for it. I always put money back in the business because I have a plan. I was so glad I hadn’t had to borrow to make improvements.”

Still, the pandemic has hit their business hard. Overby explained, “Our sales went from 2,500 to 4,000 bags in a month to zero. Everybody canceled their conferences and canceled orders for weddings. It’s nice that retail and online are trickling back, but the bulk of our sales are for conventions and minibars in hotels.”

Just as White has experienced, Overby is thankful for online retail platforms. The silver lining, she told me, is that “Necessity is the mother of invention.” She went on, “Everyone is figuring out how to sell online. Shopify has added an ‘in-person pickup’ option—that might have never happened [if not for the pandemic shut downs].” Prohibition Popcorn has been able to continue to sell popcorn even while away from their facilities. ‘I’ve been sheltered in-place for 10 weeks outside of Nashville, in Florida. Sam from Batch is handling my distribution. I was sitting on about 400 bags at the Batch warehouse, so they took it. I wanted someone I trusted.”

Prohibition Popcorn for Batch

Whether business is up or down thanks to the pandemic, there is a silver lining that Overby hopes will last. “People are looking at local. These are faces and families you know. As my husband says, ‘Spend your money with what you want to keep.’ People have been lined up outside the Farmers’ Market that hadn’t been there before.” 

Like Overby and White, we at Batch are hopeful that folks will continue to #shoplocal even as businesses continue to reopen. We have shifted our focus from primarily brick-and-mortar before the pandemic to almost exclusively online during the shut down. We have been growing Batch’s online presence by increasing the number of products and variety of makers listed on our website. We have also been creating exciting new partnerships with local organizations like the Nashville Scene, Nashville Ballet, LGBTQ Chamber, and more. So, thanks for shopping small and giving our local makers and purveyors the opportunity to keep doing what they love by giving us Handcrafted Handpicked Happiness!