Today, WNYC Radio reported on Brooklyn Industries’ Smith Street location in a full-length story about our brand’s adaptation to the recession. Reporter Lisa Chow gave listeners insight on how the first quarter of 2009 affected business as well as our strategy for the remainder of the year.
Our CEO Lexy Funk sat down with Lisa Chow twice for WNYC’s Main Streets NYC Series. Funk discusses manufacturing opportunities, budgeting and why she loves Brooklyn Industries Smith Street location.
Below is an excerpt from the two-part report. Click here and here for audio of the entire story.
REPORTER: The store stands at the busy corner of Atlantic Avenue and Smith Street in Brooklyn. It’s the gateway to the Smith Street shopping district, with the Brooklyn Industries’ black, red and gold logo hanging from the second story, above the sidewalk. On a recent Friday afternoon, the store got pretty busy, which makes you wonder: is the economy bouncing back? Lexy Funk is the clothing chain’s CEO. She says just in the last few weeks, she’s started to see an uptick in sales.
FUNK: It’s a little bit like surfing. If we can just catch this wave, and keep the customers coming and keep telling them why they need to be shopping at our store, then I think we can come out of this difficult recessionary time.
REPORTER: Funk and her husband founded the company 11 years ago, making messenger bags out of a small factory in Williamsburg. In the last three years, Brooklyn Industries grew aggressively, with sales doubling to $14 million. It opened its first stores outside New York, in Portland, Oregon and Chicago, and had plans to open some 40 more by 2011. But ever since Lehman Brothers failed in September, and the sales slump became apparent, the retailer’s game plan has changed. Funk says the priority has shifted from growing to scaling back.
FUNK: We looked back at our budget, and we cut absolutely everything we could. We talked to some of our factories and we cut some styles. No hiring outside photographer. No coffee in the lunch room.
REPORTER: The clothing chain also negotiated down rent on two of its Manhattan stores and laid off workers.
FUNK: We came to the conclusion that we had to cut, we cut three positions. And one of the biggest things we did was rather than cut five people, my husband and I haven’t taken a salary since Christmas.
REPORTER: The 38-year old CEO walks through company headquarters, housed in old industrial building near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
FUNK: This is the production area, so people who work here talk to the factories, mills, zipper suppliers.
REPORTER: The design of all the dresses, T-shirts, jackets, sweaters, pants and bags happens here. The cutting and stitching happens in factories in China, Mexico and Peru. And it turns out, even in times of crisis, there’s opportunity for this retailer. Funk sits in a conference room with her production manager Lisa Lazarus. They’re planning a trip to Peru, to visit some factories that are accepting business from Brooklyn Industries for the first time. That’s because these factories are losing work from much larger retailers, like the Gap, Limited and Abercrombie and Fitch, which are also scaling back.
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