We’ve never taken a day off. In our six years as a company, Armoire has employed our staff six days a week–Sunday through Friday–in preparation for mail pickup. We’ve held fast to this standard, despite some pretty big challenges, including a cross-country relocation.
No days off
In the move back to my hometown of Seattle from MIT where I founded Armoire, we completed a full day of service on the east coast, dropping off all the Armoire packages at the post office by 3pm. We loaded up the remaining inventory into suitcases borrowed from everyone we knew, and boarded the overnight flight out of Boston. When we–and the clothes–landed in Seattle, we organized everything in our new digs for another day of service. No days off. Without a fancy inventory management system at the time, we used hand-drawn maps taped to the inside of nineteen suitcases as a makeshift logistics key until we got more settled.
When we outgrew our original Seattle office at The Riveter, we planned for another epic move. Like clockwork, we completed a full day of service: cleaning, packaging, and shipping out hundreds of garments. At the end of the day, we loaded up all of our remaining inventory into a truck, and after multiple trips, and well into the night, had transported it down to our new headquarters in Pioneer Square. We then organized the clothing to resume service the next day–business as usual. No days off.
Service level commitment
Over the past six years, we’ve been committed to showing up strong for our members. I didn’t want to take the risk of falling a day behind, or showing up too late to support the incredible people in our community. That was the bar that I set when establishing a subscription service company. I wanted customers to know that we expected to earn their business every day, and in every way.
That service level has helped us earn the customer loyalty of world-class individuals: founders, executives, politicians, parents, leaders. They stuck with us during a global pandemic, exchanging formal gowns for “Zoom tops” and renting athleisure for the first time. We’ve served our customer base diligently over the past six years, and I’m proud to say that we’ve built very strong relationships–supplying our members with the armor they need to tackle the day, from presentation-ready blazers to photoshoot-ready dresses. Which is why I know that our customers share our values, and will support our decision to take a day off.
Prioritizing employee engagement
Over Labor Day weekend, every Armoire employee will be enjoying a four-day vacation, including Friday, September 2. We’ve extended an additional day of paid time off to every employee to enable the break. This represents the first voluntary day off we’ve ever taken as a company–the first time we’ve opted out of preparing for mail pickup.
A four-day weekend may not seem like a big deal in the larger scheme of flashy corporate wellness programs, but there’s a reason that startups don’t do this very often: it’s expensive. Paying employees for time that they’re not working is a real hit to our gross margin because we will have to pay for that additional labor time later – and gross margin is a metric that we, and our investors, watch closely. And more importantly, a day off represents a small disruption in the service level we typically provide to customers. Order a package and it gets shipped in less than 24 hours. Every. Time. But – with great confidence and gratitude – I now know that we’ve built a business and a relationship with our members that can bear the brief intermission.
Showing up strong for customers and showing up strong for our employees can sometimes feel at odds with each other. “Pay your employees more! Give them more time off!” “Achieve profitability so that your business survives! Deliver more value than the customer expects!” When Nike renewed their commitment to a week off again this year, I looked on with both envy and an eye roll. Nike’s revenue this year is about 40 times the size of our entire industry. Without doing too much math, I’m going to wager that one week off isn’t going to have the same financial impact on margin that one day off is going to have for Armoire.
Combatting “quiet quitting”
I’m thrilled to share that employee engagement is high at Armoire. In our 2022 Employee Engagement Survey distributed in May, 95% of employees reported that Armoire is a great place to work. However, I can’t ignore the larger employee engagement trends that are bubbling up in a time of great economic uncertainty. Gallup reports that employee stress is at a new all-time high, and that the global economy is losing trillions due to low employee engagement. According to The Wall Street Journal, Gen Z is balking at hustle culture; “quiet quitting” is trending on TikTok.
Employee well-being is a serious priority at Armoire, and we know that vacations are critical to rejuvenate. As we think about the benefits that we want to provide to our employees as a company, our philosophy is always to stay focused on time and money instead of vanity perquisites–things like free dry cleaning or ping pong tables. Equipping our employees with the things that matter is the goal.
We want to build sustainably. Armoire provides a great alternative to fast fashion, but we’re also creating a company for the long-haul. A four-day weekend is not the entire answer to fortifying employee engagement, but it’s a step we’re really proud to take, and a giant leap for an early stage startup.
To our members: thank you for supporting us in extending this benefit to our employees. Wishing you all a restful Labor Day break.