Tom Glazer, CEO of Graphic Image & GiGi New York tells us about the world’s finest leathers and materials.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tom Glazer: Very well. Effective mask-wearing and social distancing have done the job thus far. Only 2 cases among 70 employees over 10 months, neither of which spread. It is a blessing to come to a place each day and communicate with others.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded GiGi New York.
Tom Glazer: I joined the company right out of college in 1980. My father had started it just two years before and ran it out of our house. Over time, I focused on sales and, over the years, built a significant manufacturing capacity. What started with bookbinding now includes handbag and all other forms of manufacturing. We occupy a luxury segment in the market and long relied on our core customers who have been with us for 40 years. Brick and mortar retail is far more difficult today and is just the latest hurdle in our evolving history. Our own websites are now among our largest revenue drivers alongside fulfillment for the sites of our customers.
How does GiGi New York innovate?
Tom Glazer: Historically, our primary driver of innovation was to meet the needs of our customers. In the past ten years, beginning with the Great Recession, we began entering new businesses (GiGi New York handbags), significantly expanding our own manufacturing capacity, and today building more products to serve the work from a home lifestyle change.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Tom Glazer: In strange ways. PPP has been a huge help as we have a significant payroll of factory workers in a state that already has embraced a $ 15 minimum wage. During the worst of it last spring, payroll dropped by 75% and revenue a similar amount. All year we fought our way back and focused on selling inventory we owned, minimizing expenses, and maximizing our business online. We are a better company today.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Tom Glazer: Yes. Some employees had to be let go, and others elevated. We have always been a fourth-quarter company, but we have learned to be far more cost-conscious in the slower first six months of the year.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Tom Glazer: Customers saw that we could manage our own business on their websites, and many have taken advantage of that. We own the product until it is sold, protecting the stores’ finances and leaving them with no unsold products. Moving into a business selling one product at a time has been a huge change, forcing us to understand our expenses better and be more efficient. We expect stores to begin buying more for their in-store inventory, but we don’t expect our dropship fulfillment services to decline but will continue to grow.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Tom Glazer: PPP as described above.
Your final thoughts?
Tom Glazer: We have learned to live with COVID and look forward to living without it.
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