Collaborating through crisis

Retailers are joining forces to help their communities and each other
Neiman Marcus JoAnn Fabric collaboration

Even amid social distancing, retailers are coming together in unique ways: The pandemic has become a breeding ground for new — and strengthened — partnerships.

Consider Neiman Marcus and Jo-Ann Stores. In a decidedly “grassroots” effort, says Willis Weirich, senior vice president of supply chain and group operations at Neiman Marcus, the companies are teaming up to produce nonsurgical personal protective equipment (PPE). Jo-Ann has secured patterns and templates and is supplying fabric and materials to be made into masks, gowns and scrubs at several Nieman Marcus Group alteration facilities. The PPEs are not medical-grade but are being created under the guidelines provided by Providence Health & Services in Washington state, and can be used by front-line health providers when other supplies have been exhausted. The retailers are handling shipping and delivery and will continue producing the supplies as long as there’s a need.

Coronavirus Resources

NRF is closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic. For updated information and guidance for retailers, check out our resource page. 

Weirich says the internal response has been tremendous. Stores have been closed due to the virus; workers were on paid time off, so the company asked for volunteers. They were quick to step up.

“This is just the DNA of Neiman Marcus, to give back,” he says. “They were more than thrilled. Seeing their reactions, getting emails from folks. Everybody, including our store alterations teams, was super excited to jump in.” As for the impromptu and unprecedented collaboration with Jo-Ann, he says, “This just shows tremendous will and spirit of two organizations. When you put your mind to something, you can do anything.”

Farfetch, in the meantime, has also put its mind to collaboration: The online luxury marketplace is not only helping make its partner boutiques and their products more visible on the website; it also is helping with logistics and order fulfillment, recognizing that many physical store locations have been closed. “We are working with these boutique owners to help them in any way we can during this period,” says founder and CEO José Neves. As with all, Farfetch is doing its best to be nimble.


NRF is closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic, coordinating with government agencies, health experts and retailers as the situation continues to evolve. For updated information and guidance for retailers, check out our resource page. 

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