Three Questions with Lisa Powers Struble

Lisa Powers Struble

Lisa Powers Struble spent two decades at big apparel names Under Armour and Abercrombie & Fitch before moving back to her native Middle Tennessee. After joining the team at fashion accessory company Banded, she bought the Franklin-based company — which supplies hundreds of boutiques in the United States and Canada — in 2018. Here, she shares some thoughts on how she has led her team since coming aboard and what’s ahead.

 

What were you able to translate to Banded from your time at Under Armour and Abercrombie & Fitch?

The biggest thing was learning from a global team about how to keep people connected while they’re remote. We didn’t panic when everyone had to work from home all of a sudden. Our focus has always been on making sure people understand their individual roles inside the larger group. If you understand how your work affects everyone else, you can be proactive and communicate more effectively. This is critical when people are working remotely and potentially making changes and decisions that will affect other work all down the line.

Luckily, it’s easier with a small team to connect the dots. It helps you build agility into your culture all the time. If you weren’t flexible before, you can’t just build in flexibility during a crisis.

When I arrived, I saw people chasing a lot of things. There was a lot of product development work going on but not a lot of focus. I really tried to bring some focus to the group, to define what we stood for and what we are going to stand for going forward. To me, it was about stripping away distractions.

I had a lot to learn, too. This was my first time on the wholesale side. I learned quickly that if you’re going to create a new product, you need to be able to sell it through the same channels to the same people. Otherwise, it may be a great product but it’s probably not right for your brand. If you want staying power, brand comes first.

 

What were your biggest lessons from dealing with COVID?

That it’s OK to pause, to just stop for a few minutes. When the pandemic arrived, our world changed within 48 hours. We got on the phone, we got on Zoom meetings to ask ourselves and others, “What are you seeing? What are you hearing from customers?” Within the first week of stay-at-home orders being rolled out, clients were canceling orders, refusing shipments or returning products and we were extending payment schedules.

But there was opportunity, too. Our appeal went primarily from selling scrunchies and the like — products we would file under “fashion items” — to having more “functional” accessories such as head wraps and masks. So we began pulling product and seeing what we could convert. We had weeded through our list of vendors when I got here and that helped us build strong partnerships with one or two key suppliers. Within two weeks, we had signed off on new products and within 30 days, they had been produced. Around that time, there was no more panic from wholesalers and a lot of our smaller stores had figured out how to do e-commerce well.

It’s so easy to become a hamster on a wheel. But it’s OK to stay put sometimes, look around and then make smarter decisions.

 

What are some of your priorities coming up?

We’re watching the news like everyone else and hoping for a spring and summer rebound. We’re launching an all-new collection inspired by Mediterranean color and style. It’s gorgeous, happy and bright and great for traveling or creating your own escape at home. The feedback we’re getting is that people want newness and are eager to get back out into stores.

Longer term, we know what works for us and we’re not going to abandon it. We know what the customer wants. For us, a big focus will be on selling new accounts. A lot of stores may not reopen. But I’ve also talked to the team about opportunities coming our way because a lot of our competitors didn’t push out new lines.

Post-COVID, we plan to continue to work from home at least three days a week and we just moved into a smaller, more collaborative office space. It won’t be a huge change for us versus before COVID. Even then, people with big projects would go home and work to help them focus. If I expect my team to be flexible, I think I owe them the same.

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