Today, Waterford.FYI talks to Elaine Roche, Owner of TRM, Waterford. Trading for over 35 years, TRM (Tony Roche Menswear), one of the city’s trendiest men & women’s clothes shops, closed their doors at the start of the lockdown in March. This has been a very tough time for Elaine but thankfully, June 8th is just around the corner and she can’t wait to open the shop doors again.
We wish Elaine all the best in the re-opening of her store on June 8th and are sure her customers will be as happy to see her as she is to see them!
Read the interview
How have things changed for you since the lockdown in March?
Well, our doors are closed. We’ve no physical contact with customers or staff. A few bits coming in online, so we are really focused on getting that up and running. It’s a sad day to see the doors closed.
How has the shutdown of so much impacted the community, your staff, and suppliers?
Customer service is our number one thing. On a daily basis, we would have local customers just come in and chat. We have a few guys who come in for a coffee & a chat, not even having that one-on-one with our customers and with our staff being at home – it’s very hard. Even doing the online thing was a big move for us; we’re more personal. We like to see the customers, talk to them, you know? It’s just showing that every business needs to be looking at being online until we come out of this.
Before all this, it was about the survival of bricks and mortar, now it’s ‘brick to clicks’ – Is the high street dying? It’s a scary time, but we all have to adapt to our current situation and make the best out of it.
Are you connecting with your customers and how have they reacted?
We are reaching out with social media and we check in personally with phone calls. Our main stream of communication is social media at the moment.
How have your customers reacted?
It’s amazing… I’m getting calls from people who want to come in and who want to shop local, it’s very touching. People have been so supportive and we’re so grateful. It means so much to us.
How can communities help local businesses now?
I think this is a big wake up call. A lot of people go “Oh, Waterford is falling and we don’t have anything around.” We have amazing shops in Waterford, amazing boutiques and amazing menswear shops. People really need to think and look and appreciate what we do have in Waterford and start shopping local. It’s for people to realise what is there and what they have on their doorstep. We just want to serve our customers and be there for them.
How are your staff doing?
Yeh, we have a WhatsApp group chat and we check-in and try to make sure everyone is ok. But everyone is getting fed up and just wants to be back. You know, people in retail enjoy social interaction and not having that, it can be very draining on you. You have to think positive and think of the future. Even some of our older customers, like Sam Jacon who has been shopping with my Dad for years, it’s just been so hard for them.
You have an online shop already?
Yes. We’re working really hard at the moment on our website. We’re putting a lot of time and effort into having a good online presence. I’m in touch with a lot of online influencers now to try to get them to come on board and really move this on. The feedback I was getting was that people wanted to see the face of TRM and the likes of me or Peter in a video (we’re both not fans of being in front of the camera. I’ll do anything if it means we’re reaching out to customers and show our customers out there what we have. Social media is key in directing people to your website.
Do you feel ready to reopen once restrictions are eased?
Yes, we’re in the middle of making plans. I’m doing Zoom meetings with other men’s retailers around the country as there’s so much to think about. When someone tries on something, we’re going to have to sanitise the fitting room; you can’t touch the garment if they don’t take it for three days. It’s mind-boggling. We’re getting information from Retail Excellence Ireland and we’re in touch with Design Display, based at Six Crossroads (Waterford), they’re doing a plan of how people will flow through the shop. So we’re working on putting all the right measures in place for opening.
We’ve been doing webinars with Retail Excellence and following all their safety advice. In the next few weeks, we also have to think about Raf’s Barbers in the back. It may have to be ring by appointment – he’s working on it to get back up and running.
Is there enough information out there for local businesses?
Everyone is really trying hard. LEO has been running webinars and there’s grants for websites to help get up and running. Waterford Chamber also have been laying guidelines. The good part about this is that a lot of local businesses are saying we have to work together to survive and support each other. It was something that was lacking a bit in Waterford. Now, the positive thing that has come out of this is everyone is there to help each other out and really stand strong. I’m just looking for all the silver linings at this stage haha!
Have you availed of financial supports?
Yes, and we’re going to need support for a long time. Someone once said to me “What would you do without the church?” And I said, “What do you mean?” They said, “Well, you have weddings, funeral, confirmations, communions.” These are all the things that drive our business, that we rely on. July & Augst you’d have all the debs, now all this has been pulled from under us. Financially, I’m just hoping we’ll get through this. Sometimes, you ask are you better off closed because of the running costs of the business (rates, wages, heat lighting, rent etc.).
What’s been the hardest thing for you?
Social interaction! I miss my staff, I miss my customers, I miss the craic, you know? That has been the hardest part.
First thing you’ll do when lockdown is over?
Celebrate with friends and family and really appreciate what we have, the freedom, and to be grateful for what we have.
Go to activity for relaxing during lockdown?
I’ve been doing Zoom classes with Mags Murphy who has been great. She got all the equipment out of The Kingfisher – that’s kept me sane! I’ve been doing lots of cooking and eating too 🙂
If you had one message for your customers, what would it be?
That I miss you! We’ll be back better and brighter than ever and I just cannot wait to see ye all. We’re going to be there to help and support you in any way we can. We have an amazing city and we just need to stand togther.