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Life is Good almost went bankrupt last year, but that saved it: CEO



Life is Good was about to file for bankruptcy protection last year, according to the CEO, but the retailer managed to rework its business strategy in a few weeks to have its best year during the Covid pandemic. .

“When [Covid] a hit, 50% of our business was wholesale … and that business died fast, “said Life is Good co-founder and CEO Bert Jacobs on Tuesday during the CNBC Small Business Playbook event.

“We were in a situation where we were facing bankruptcy and we had to cut at least half of our staff. Then we said … let̵

7;s play really offensive. Let’s make these things to order and see what happens.”

Instead of ordering wholesale shirts, sweaters, hats and other accessories that are already printed with logos, slogans and other designs, Life is Good started ordering batches of empty items last year, the CEO explained. Then, following the mood of the users, he began to print inventory on demand, which contains phrases for staying home and quarantining, wearing masks and other trends related to the pandemic.

“We started talking about anything of cultural significance, which was very difficult at the time, but we tried to keep the light on,” Jacobs said.

Bert Jacobs, co-founder and chief optimist of life is good

Paul Morigi CNBC

The strategy clearly helped. Not only did it help boost customer morale, but it was a story of financial success.

“2020 was, after all, the best top line we’ve ever had in 27 years and the strongest bottom line,” Jacobs said. (The private company did not provide accurate sales data.)

“2020 has shown us how to run our business,” he said, adding that sales in 2021 are still “going crazy” because Life is Good adheres to the business principles it has adopted over the past few months. .

“We work for the consumer and everyone has to do it,” Jacobs explained. “The [retailers] the survivors will be those who listen carefully and collect the data. … The user gives you the answers. “

More from CNBC’s Playbook for Small Business

Many retailers were unlucky as “Life is Good” last year, as they distorted under the pressure of the health crisis. Dozens have filed for bankruptcy and thousands of store closures have been announced by retailers, many in the clothing category.

There is a renewed sense of optimism, however, that demand begins to recover as consumers leave their homes and prepare to communicate again. Americans will return to work, in crowds, in the coming months, and families are looking to book long-awaited summer vacations.

“It’s really a community of rational optimists,” Jacobs said. “I say rational optimists because we realize that there are challenges in the world … that it’s hard … but we decide when we wake up in the morning to focus on what’s wrong with our lives, what’s wrong with the world, more than what is wrong with the world. “


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