I wrote a lot about Shoe Mo on my blog, how we started, how we struggled, how I struggled. If you noticed, I haven’t written any article on what happened in 2020 throughout the entire year. I was quiet, I digested, I sucked it in, I didn’t know what to write about, and like so many others, 2020 had caught me totally of guard and changed my life upside down. But then I decided to write this blog to briefly share how 2020 went for Shoe Mo & how we survived through it.
On March 11, I returned to KL from a trip to Singapore, little that I know 3 days later, the PM announced a 2 week nationwide lockdown. Businesses & offices were closed, no one were allowed to go out unless for groceries & necessities. At first it didn’t bother me so much, as it was supposed to be only 2 weeks. I had a trip planned to Vietnam in early April and I actually planned to go on even though I know I’m gonna be quarantined when I reached Vietnam. Luckily, my flight was cancelled. If I had gone to Vietnam, I might still be there now.
2 weeks went by, the lockdown period kept extending. Anxiety finally kicked in. Shoe Mo was just little over 3 year old back then, we were too young and too cash constraint to survive such an unprecedented event. Our shops were closed, there would be no walk in customers, we couldn’t work from home, no delivery service were allowed. As a result, we have 0 revenue for 2 weeks and on going. After multiple late night calls, urgent team meetings, we decided that to survive the long run, we need to:
- Reduce all staff’s pay to basic pay to cover basic needs. Co-founders take no pay.
- Apply for Government Relief Package. Luckily we applied early and had the fund arrived during the lockdown.
- Asking for rental rebate. Different landlord gave different discounts (some don’t), overall we had around 20-30% rental relief.
- Selling our service voucher at a heavy discounted price (40-60% on listed price) to raise emergency cash flow to sustain staff payroll – as a result, we got 700+ vouchers sold in the first month of selling.
- List our service vouchers in multiple deal vendors to get as much sales as we can get
- Discussing with stakeholders to hold off certain payments and delay as long as we can, I’m grateful to have understanding investor and co founder that I can count on during crisis time.
On May 04, certain business sector can start opening again but the country is still in Conditional Movement Control. We decided to open 5 days per week, with short operational time, only 1 staff per day. As the rules loosened up over time, we increased the opening hours and staff allocation. Our revenue from 0 increased to 10-20% of normal period. “At least there are some light at the end the tunnel” – I told myself.
March – July 2020 were probably the darkest hours in Shoe Mo history, frustration, confusion and uncertainty of what could happen next. We’ve had so many conversation on this topic, we even laid out the worst scenarios – downsizing, retrenchment, changing business model, taking loans, etc.. all we can think of.
August gave us hope, we can finally see sales start to pick up. But not for long.
In September/ October, as the cases started to go up again, new Conditional Movement Control was imposed, resulted in a dip in our sales chart. It felt like we just jumped straight back to square 1. The once crowded corner restaurant next to our shop closed down, newly opened bubble tea shop next door took down their signage, I walked a long the empty streets of Uptown Damansara and Bangsar with a heavy heart, dare not to think about what would be in the next few months, what would happen to our team if we are to close down. It’s like we’re on a roller coaster but we can’t see where it is going to.
In November we launched our delivery service in Klang Valley, we have a dedicated staff runner to pick up and provide on the spot consultation, we figured that it works better than a third party runner even though it seems to be more work, but it is in our business nature that it is essential to manage the expectation when the shoes are collected. Truth is, we had our delivery service way back in 2018, which is a fully integrated/ automated order taking and online payment with a third party logistic company, but it hasn’t been able to pick up until now. The pandemic has forever changed consumer behaviours.
In December, we launched our sister brand Bag Mo – which focuses entirely on servicing leather bags. Bag Mo a whole new vertical that we believe to be potential in the future. Also in the same month, we stood to see our franchised outlet in Miri close down due to lack of strong management through the crisis.
Now looking back to 2020, I do believe that we have done a good job staying afloat, no staff retrenchment, 2 new business vertical launched, everyone is back to normal pay. But we are nowhere near where we thought we would be by end of 2020. Our overall performance is negative 30% vs 2019, co founders aren’t paid, no pay increment, pending instalments that are not setlled. We need to do better in 2021. I’m not a big fan of staying the same place for a long time.
Maybe I need to chill and look at the bright side for a bit, in fact, we have a little success to celebrate – as of Jan 01 2021, Shoe Mo team has serviced 50,000 pairs thus far! It might seems big, it might seems small, but we definitely has gone so far from washing shoes in the toilet way back in 2016. It is definitely a motivation for us to thrive harder this year!
Onwards & Upwards,