Peacock Alley

www.peacockalley.com

Jason Needleman (CEO) | Dallas, Texas | Retail

Peacock Alley

“Because we were so digitally plugged in already, we were able to look at our analytics and quickly shift the tone of our marketing and social posts in a way that allowed us to really meet the moment of uncertainty.”

Jason Needleman, Peacock Alley | Dallas, Texas

The year was 1973 and Peacock Alley founder Mary Ella Gabler, a single mother who had long enjoyed making patchwork pillows for friends, was suddenly commissioned by Neiman Marcus to produce 250 of them in short order. “I guess it’s time to finally make a business out of this,” she thought. The result was Peacock Alley — a maker of luxury bed and bath linens for nearly 50 years now. Of course, a lot has changed over the last five decades. Mary Ella has since passed the company on to her sons and the company has since passed into the digital age—a good thing too because, as CEO Jason Needleman put it, “digital saved the business” during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Peacock Alley began as a wholesale–only company. That’s the way it stayed for several decades too. About 10 years ago, the company opened its first retail stores. Just over three years ago, it started selling online. There are the three sides of the business — wholesale, retail, and e–commerce — and, for a long time, the units were arranged in size and importance in the same order. COVID-19 changed all that. During the pandemic, the e–commerce segment became the highest–grossing by far and continues to far outpace the others today.

76%

of Retail industry used digital payments pre-crisis, on average

This pre-crisis digital readiness also included use of websites (71%), and social media (72%), and a majority (64%) increased use of these tools during the crisis.

“Imagine if this pandemic had happened in 1973, 1983, or even 2013 — we might have been toast,” Jason says. “Instead, we just got back to work. We were able to keep selling the same as before and we were able to keep our customers updated as we went along. It’s incredible.” In fact, the company entered the year with extremely optimistic growth projections. Even after the pandemic, the targets did not change. That should give a good sense of how things went for Peacock Alley at a time of great crisis. It turns out that businesses focused on comfort can do well at a time like that — as long as they have the correct tools to seize the opportunity.

53%

of SMBs found digital tools more helpful to them during the crisis than pre-crisis.

Most SMBs (53%) also plan to continue to use more digital technologies in their business, even after the pandemic.

Peacock Alley had the digital tools it needed at a critical moment. “Just about everything we had was already in the cloud,” Jason recalls, thankfully. “Because we were so digitally plugged in already, we were able to look at our analytics and quickly shift the tone of our marketing copy and social posts in a way that allowed us to really meet the moment of uncertainty. We could communicate with our customers both in real–time and in just the right way.” The company’s web platform is powered by Shopify. More than 90% of its marketing is dedicated to digital, promoting products on Google Shopping while maintaining a presence on social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. So, when it came to communicating with its customers during the pandemic, social media was obviously a direct and easy way to do so. For instance, these channels were helpful in getting the word out when the company started producing masks for donation to Mayo Clinic and local hospitals. In terms of communicating internally, that was just as easy. Peacock Alley’s digitally driven team simply hopped over to Google Meet or jumped on a Zoom call.

The beauty of digital is that it enables you to adapt and change course quickly.

Peacock Alley

“Without digital, we would not be in business right now,” Jason says. “My advice to other small businesses is to be ambitious and take advantage of as many of these free tools as you can. Don’t be afraid to test them out and make changes either. The beauty of digital is that it enables you to adapt and change course quickly.” In other words, be bold and think ahead of the curve—just like Mary Ella Gabler, a woman who founded a start–up decades before the word even came into fashion.

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