MAY 2015, ISSUE 246 £6.95 — WWW.WWB-ONLINE.CO.UK WOMENSWEAR BUYER
— CONNECTING THE DOTS WWB’s comprehensive guide to e-commerce —
— WIDENING THE NET How Hengelo is expanding its online offer —
— SHORT CUTS The latest in-season styles to get in-store now —
— A LOVELY OCCASION The best occasionwear top-ups —
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5 EDITOR’S COMMENT — 6 NEWS — 12 BACKSTAGE The other side of womenswear — 14 TALKING POINT — 46 RETAIL FORUM The latest news from the industry — 50 UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL With Skechers brand ambassador Kelly Brook — COVER: BELLFIELD —
16 Q&A With womenswear agent Katie Lightfoot — 20 NORTHERN STAR The rise of Danish label Soaked in Luxury — 25 E-COMMERCE NEWS — 26 OPEN FOR BUSINESS Experts give advice on e-tailing essentials — 30 THE PERSONAL TOUCH How the high street uses personalisation to drive sales — 32 WAYS TO PAY Payment options and considerations for your online store — 34 NET GAINS Premium indie Hengelo’s online success —
18 STYLE FILE — 39 THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT In-season brands to get in-store now — 42 ANY OCCASION Must-have occasionwear styles to top up your offer — 45 OPEN TO QUESTION WWB quizzes key occasionwear retailers about what’s selling now —
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Editor Isabella Griffiths email@example.com — Contributors Christina Williams firstname.lastname@example.org Victoria Jackson email@example.com Laura Turner firstname.lastname@example.org — Sub editor Amanda Batley email@example.com — Editorial assistant Rebecca Jackson firstname.lastname@example.org — Design & production Michael Podger email@example.com Clive Holloway firstname.lastname@example.org James Lindley email@example.com Richard Boyle firstname.lastname@example.org — Sales manager Sam Chambers email@example.com — Subscriptions Laura Martindale firstname.lastname@example.org — Editorial director Gill Brabham email@example.com — Portfolio director Nick Cook firstname.lastname@example.org — Marketing director Stephanie Parker email@example.com — Managing director Colette Tebbutt firstname.lastname@example.org — Reprographics/printing ImageData Group 01482 652323
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RAS Publishing is an ITE Group PLC company A Buyer Series Fashion Business Publication WWB is a fashion business publication produced by RAS Publishing Ltd. Other titles include MWB and CWB.
THE “OMNI-CHANNEL STORE OF THE FUTURE” WAS ONE OF THE TOPICS AT THE RECENT INTERNET RETAILING EXPO IN BIRMINGHAM, WHERE HIGH-PROFILE SPEAKERS DISCUSSED THEIR VISION OF MULTI-CHANNEL SHOPPING. Among the delegates was Claire Zuurbier, head of development, digital stores, at Marks & Spencer, who shared how the group is increasingly integrating its digital presence with its high-street shops, creating a seamless shopping experience and driving more customers in-store and online. Some of her findings were very compelling indeed. Firstly, three out of four of M&S sales are still “closed” in their bricks-and-mortar stores, however, interestingly, the start of the shopping journey now increasingly starts online, with customers browsing the M&S website first before embarking on the actual purchase. M&S is therefore investing heavily in its digital set-up, with the aim to create “blended spaces” between the bricks-and-mortar and digital store and “meaningful connections” with its customers. For instance, the use of iPads in-store, free WiFi and digital signage across its stores helps to further connect with customers, enhancing the shopping experience, and according to Zuurbier, this will be key to further developments. Future plans include pinging mobile phone alerts to customers in-store and pointing them to the item they have browsed online the day before (aisle X, on sale for price Y) and having it ready for the customer in the right size to be picked up. The future possibilities of using digital with physical stores are endless, according to Zuurbier, and embracing the opportunities and not seeing the internet as the
Heart of Fashion
“enemy” will be key to the “rebirth of the high street”, as she convincingly outlined. In this issue we once again focus on e-commerce, and have enlisted the expertise of some of the best internet whizzes around, giving valuable advice on issues such as personalisation of the shopping experience, optimising your digital marketing, how blogging can drive sales in-store and much more. And to top it off, we take a snoop around premium indie Hengelo, whose online presence is becoming a big part of the boutique’s overall growth. We speak to the sister duo behind the store to find out their digital strategy and recipe for success. Has your e-commerce business taken off, or is it still in its infancy? Or are you defying the internet by focusing purely on your bricks-and-mortar store? As always, I would love to hear from you, so don’t be shy and drop me a line at email@example.com or tweet me @wwbmagazine.
Isabella Griffiths, editor
9-11 August 2015 Moda, NEC Birmingham moda-uk.co.uk
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CLICK & COLLECT CRUCIAL TO RETAIL SUCCESS New study reveals in-store pick-ups are becoming a must-have option for stores. —
A new report by internet research group IMRG highlights the increased importance of Click & Collect delivery options for online retailers. The study, which was commissioned by CollectPlus, the UK’s largest independent store-based parcel delivery and returns service, states that Click & Collect is a “must-have” option if e-commerce players are to maximise their potential. The findings predict that Click & Collect options – in-store, parcel store and lockers – will continue to increase in popularity at a growth rate of 20 per cent per year. Drawing upon a wide range of industry and consumer research, the report advises retailers to ensure they are capitalising on the growing popularity of Click & Collect among online shoppers. Key findings include evidence that mobile shoppers are primary Click & Collect shoppers, so the propensity to shop online using a mobile device is a clear future indicator towards the use of the delivery service. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of Click & Collect for returns, not only in making sure that customers find it easy to make returns, but also ensuring these can be swiftly processed through the supply chain with appropriate tracking and visibility and to raise credits or refunds as quickly as possible. The review predicts further growth
with regards to the use of third-party parcel stores and alternative locker solutions and expects to see an increased awareness by consumers of these as retailers expand their Click & Collect reach. Looking to the future, the report also forecasts that new innovations such as 3D printing and drone delivery have the potential to work alongside Click & Collect to provide increasingly flexible supply chains and delivery options. “This report outlines just how important Click & Collect has become,” says IMRG’s Andrew Starkey, author of the report. “Improving customer experience is a focus for many retailers and the convenience with which customers can receive their orders has become a key differentiator – and Click & Collect is arguably becoming an expectation in terms of delivery options.” Neil Ashworth, CEO of CollectPlus, says, “In just one decade, Click & Collect has gone from early trials amongst innovative retailers to a standard component of the multi-channel retail proposition (…). “It has certainly benefitted from the enthusiasm with which customers have adopted this flexible, convenient and accessible addition to the portfolio of delivery options from retailers of all sizes and markets,” he continues. “In the next few years we expect to see further innovation in Click & Collect services, with a greater
“In the next few years we expect to see further innovation in Click & Collect services, with a greater range of pick-up locations on offer. Retailers need to be thinking about delivery in terms of ‘customer journeys’ rather than simply proximity to where people live”
range of pick-up locations on offer. Retailers need to be thinking about delivery in terms of ‘customer journeys’ rather than simply proximity to where people live.”
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MARBLE OFFERS FLEXIBILE DELIVERY STRUCTURE British womenswear label Marble has introduced a flexible delivery structure to allow its customers to adapt seasonal arrivals in line with their own store’s merchandising. Each customer is able to select their colour story of choice for their first drop, and can tailor three further drops throughout the season in line with their own merchandising plans. “We show the collection in six colour groups at the shows, and we noticed that many of our customers were focusing on two, three or more colour stories for their buy but were reticent in taking large quantities of stock at one time with no control over what they received first,” says brand manager Claire Carmichael. “We saw this as an opportunity not only for growth in sales, but also to assist our customers in managing their season in a way that suited them.” The scheme is supported by point-of-sale material that is relevant to each drop, allowing retailers to create dedicated merchandising displays in-store. —
HAUBER TO CEASE TRADING German womenswear brand Hauber is to cease trading at the end of August after full completion of a/w 15 deliveries. Hauber Group, the parent company of the brand, has decided to pull the plug on the label after it has been badly affected by the economic crisis in the Russian market. It will now focus on the business’ other divisions, which include womenswear brand Luisa Cerano and healthcare label Sporlastic. Hauber was recently repositioned and modernised to sit within the premium luxury casual end of the market. “We had seen much success with Hauber Fashion in some markets, however we had a high dependency on the Russian market,” says Walter Leuthe, managing partner and owner of the company. “Since the Russian crisis we have experienced significant reductions in order volume, and it is with a heavy heart that we are forced to close the Hauber Fashion division and focus all of our efforts on our strong business divisions Luisa Cerano and Sportlastic.” The company has assured customers that all a/w 15 deliveries will be carried out fully. —
CLOTHING RETAIL BENEFITS FROM SMARTPHONE SURGE Shoppers are relying on their smartphones to shop online more than ever – and it is the apparel sector that is seeing the biggest boost, according to new figures released this week. The number of customers searching for clothes online via their smartphones is up 54 per cent on this time last year, while tablet searches for the same period have increased by 11 per cent. “Mobile continues to drive growth in the UK, and this remains the case with apparel in the first quarter of the year,” says Peter Fitzgerald, retail director at Google. “Interestingly, emerging markets still see strong growth from tablets, however smartphones supercharge growth for overseas consumers of UK brands.” — HONEYZ.COM LAUNCHES FRANCHISE SCHEME Glasgow fashion brand Honeyz is launching a franchise scheme, which is set to roll out the business format to towns and cities across the UK. Honeyz.com, which has two stores in Glasgow, offers fast fashion and accessories at competitive price points and has seen rapid growth over the last few season. Franchisees can buy into the brand for £10,000 and £150 per week, which also includes mentoring and support by Khalid to ensure each new store is a success. — FIGGAHUGGA LAUNCHES FIRST LBD COLLECTION Shapewear brand Figgahugga has launched a capsule collection of party dresses designed to show off the shapewear underneath. The range of six LBDs features lace dresses in a variety of styles, including bodycon and skater shapes, cap and long sleeves and dramatic full-length designs, created for layering over a statement figure-fixing underdress. The collection will be available on the brand’s website, www.figgahugga.com, later in the year, with prices ranging from £29.99 to £49.99.
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STRONG START FOR S/S 16’S MODA NOIR After increasing its capacity to meet customer demand, dedicated evening and occassionwear area Moda Noir is almost fully booked for s/s 16 and will showcase a raft of top brands when it returns to Moda Woman at the NEC, Birmingham, on 9-11 August. The area looks set to enjoy its most successful season yet, thanks to a flurry of signings from returning favourites and international industry heavyweights, including the likes of John Charles, Linea Raffaelli, Antonio D’Errico, Esperanza Garcia, Carmen Melero, Irresistible, Dressed Up and Dress Code by Veromia, Mascara, Montage by Mon Cheri and Mac Duggal. Elsewhere, the event has also confirmed high-profile signings such as Kamuflage, Shepherds, Tymor Seasons and Anataka, which will debut in the show’s contemporary section Moda White. —
ELVI WIDENS ITS NET Plus-size womenswear brand Elvi has launched a wholesale website, www.elviwholesale.co.uk, targeting online retailers as well as independents, multiples and department stores. The brand is currently stocked in selected indies across the country and has one large retail stockist in the US, but is looking to push ahead with expansion over the next few months. The label has recently been revamped with a younger, more stylish and premium feel, including a new logo for a better identity that reflects the new brand image. Elvi is aimed at the 35-55 age group and specialises in sizes 14-26, with the s/s 15 collection taking inspiration from catwalk trends. Key pieces include jumpsuits, shirt dresses, maxi skirts and wrap dresses, with wholesale prices ranging from £8.95 to £53.74. The brand has also re-designed its transactional consumer website, www.elvi.co.uk – now with easier navigation and a stronger emphasis on social media, incorporating competitions, giveaways and videos. —
HALF-YEARLY SALES UP AT PRIMARK Primark has seen a 15 per cent rise in its half-yearly sales, boosting its profits to £322m. The figure represents a substantial boost in revenue for the retailer, which saw profits of £298m during the same period last year. The store’s owner, AB Foods, attributed the rise in sales to new store openings across the globe and a strong Christmas period. “This is a sound trading result with significant progress made in operating profit by Primark,” says AB Foods’ chief executive, George Weston. “Primark’s performance was driven by significant expansion of selling space and superior trading by the stores opened in the last 12 months and plans for its entry into the north-east of the US are well advanced.” — SHOPSTYLE SEES 55 PER CENT INCREASE IN WEB HITS Online shopping portal Shopstyle has reported an increase of 55 per cent in its website traffic over the past year, resulting in over £805m in retail revenue across the sector. The portal – which allows users to quickly find products matching an exact search such as “blue shoes” or “red top” – now works with over 1,000 retailers, representing over 10 million products. Owned by Popsugar, Shopstyle has introduced more feature-led editorial in addition to its search engine, to which the company attributes in part its increased success. — POSITIVE RESULTS FOR DEBENHAMS Debenhams has seen its pre-tax profits rise 4.3 per cent to £88.9m in the 26-week period to 28 February. The half-yearly results were accompanied by the news that the retailer has slashed its debt by £62.4m, indicating that the business has embarked upon a period of recovery, following a challenging few seasons. The success has been attributed in part to an increased focus on online delivery, which has seen an increase of 12.7 per cent in sales during the same period.
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CONTINUED SUCCESS FOR THE LONDON PRINT DESIGN FAIR The London Print Design Fair, which offers print, embroidery, knit and vintage design, welcomed more than 1,000 visitors to its event last month, proving its third edition to be its strongest to date. With over 40 exhibitors, the show saw domestic and international print studios exhibit their latest collections. With a strong presence from international exhibitors, there was a multi-national offering for visitors across the two-day event, which was held at The Lindley Hall, London SW1P. Sister show The London Textile Fair, meanwhile, cemented itself as the key textile trade show in the UK at its 12th edition in January. Taking place at London’s Business Design Centre, the event is dedicated specifically to European mills and is split into four sections – Textiles, Accessories & Trims, Print Studios and Vintage Clothes. Occupying 4,800 sq m, January’s show welcomed 4,000 visitors and 360 exhibitors – a 20 per cent increase in comparison to the previous event. The next edition of The London Textile Fair will take place on 15-16 July 2015, while The London Print Design Fair will be held on 27-28 October 2015. —
LFW TO MOVE TO THE WEST END The 62nd edition of London Fashion Week will move from its current site at Somerset House to a new home – Brewer Street Car Park in Soho. The new central London location fulfils the BFC’s goal to host London Fashion Week in the West End, providing a central point for a city wide fashion event with close proximity to major retail spaces. Spanning two floors, the Brewer Street Car Park will showcase a host of designer catwalk shows in the BFC Show Space and the Designer Showrooms, where over 100 designers will exhibit their s/s 16 collections. Dating back to 1929, the Brewer Street Car Park is an iconic art-deco building designed by architect JJ Joass that is fast becoming one of Soho’s most dynamic creative spaces. London Fashion Week takes place on 18-22 September. The provisional schedule will be announced the week commencing 20 July. —
YOURBRANDSPACE TO LAUNCH B2B MARKETPLACE Wholesale fashion platform Yourbrandspace.com is expanding its B2B offer with the launch of Shop, an area allowing retailers to top up their offer with in-season purchases and one easy checkout process. The added functionality, going live in June, will create a user-friendly online marketplace for short-order womenswear and accessory brands. Retailers from around the globe will be able to purchase stock from multiple brands in one easy transaction, paying by debit or credit card on checkout. Approved trade buyers can search and filter by brand name, product type, season, delivery time-scale, as well as price point and purchase items across multiple labels and collections. Brands, meanwhile, will have the option to approve retailers based on geography, set minimum orders, delivery costs and update their products whenever they want. The order will be dispatched by the label and sent directly to the retailer. —
GLOVERALL APPOINTS NEW CEO Gloverall has appointed Derrick Campbell as new CEO, taking over the position from Daniel Kim. Campbell, who has previously been with heritage brand Lyle & Scott, will be responsible for Gloverall’s further development and growth, building on the strong history and identity of the label, which is known for its duffel coats. — ARIELLA OPENS RETAIL SPACE British evening and occasionwear brand Ariella has opened a standalone store at London’s Brent Cross Shopping Centre. It’s the label’s first physical store in almost 30 years and is part of a three-year expansion plan, which sees Ariella trading through multiple platforms, including its e-commerce store Ariella.com, a further roll-out of standalone stores, as well as its wholesale division, the Cocktail Clothing Company. — HEMYCA LAUNCHES E-COMMERCE SITE London luxury womenswear wear Hemyca has launched an e-commerce site, www.hemyca. com, to reflect its strong growth and meet increased customer demand. The site offers the brand’s full s/s 15 collection, as well as additional features such as a bespoke service across womenswear, menswear and bridalwear. — CELTIC & CO RETURNS TO PROFIT Cornish luxury footwear, clothing and outerwear brand Celtic & Co has returned to profit after several loss-making years. The brand announced a turnover of £6,125,782 for the financial year to January 2015, with an annual profit of £367,059. The turnaround of the business is attributed to the re-engagement with the brand’s loyal customer base and commitment to heritage values, as well as the implementation of a digital communications strategy, including investment in digital and search engine marketing, alongside traditional display advertising.
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BACKSTAGE The other side of womenswear —
BESTSELLER DONATES £10.8M TO CHARITY Danish fashion house Bestseller raised £10.8m for national and international charities across its global territories last month. The company’s Give a Day campaign pledged to donate everything customers spent on 10 April to selected charities, with Bestseller UK having raised £560,000 – far exceeding its target of £50,000. The UK’s nominated cause was homeless charity Crisis, which benefited from £280,000 of funding as a result of the campaign. Global charities, meanwhile, included children’s charities Save the Children, UNICEF and GAIN – the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition. —
TOMS SUPPORTS EVERY MOTHER COUNTS Accessory brand Toms has launched a limited-edition collection featuring a backpack and a tote, with proceeds from each purchase going towards supporting maternal health charity Every Mother Counts’ global advocacy efforts and helping provide a safe birth for a mother and baby in need. Founded by global maternal health advocate Christy Turlington Burns (pictured with Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms, and volunteers). Every Mother Counts, is a non-profit organisation dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for women worldwide. Purchases of Toms bags help to provide training for skilled birth attendants, and distribute birth kits containing vital materials to help a woman safely give birth. —
— Who says colouring is just for kids? The Vintage Colouring Book is the perfect pastime for drawers and doodlers with an interest in fashion. The books are £5.99 and available from IWM Shop. —
BARBOUR SPONSORS SCOTTIES IN NY PARADE
British lifestyle label Barbour celebrated its Scottish roots by sponsoring a selection of Scottie dogs in the New York Tartan Day Parade. The event, which took place last month, celebrates the contribution made by Scottish Americans to the US, and has featured thousands of marchers and pipers every year since it was established in 1998. Barbour donated a range of dog coats to the Westie and Scottie dogs taking part in the march, incorporating greens, blues and reds into its design with a definitive corduroy collar in recognition of the brand’s country lifestyle identity. —
SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED FOR UKFT AWARDS The UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) has announced the shortlist for this year’s annual Natwest Awards. Taking place in London on 21 May, the event will be hosted by model and presenter Jack Guinness and model Amber Le Bon. An acclaimed panel of judges including designers Henry Holland and Patrick Grant chose this year’s shortlist. The Womenswear Award nominations include Huishan Zhang, Karl Donoghue and Teatum Jones, while the nominations for the Rise Newcomer Award include Alex Mullins, Alice Made This, Finlay & Co, Hamilton & Hare and L’Estrange London. For more information and a full list of nominees visit www.ukftawards.org/. —
Heart of Fashion
Woman Lingerie & Swimwear Accessories Footwear Gent
9-11 August 2015 NEC Birmingham Apply to exhibit, or register for tickets at moda-uk.co.uk
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TALKING POINT Key industry players give their views on the issues that affect womenswear. —
THE OXYGEN OF PUBLICITY IS A POWERFUL TOOL
DISCOUNT MENTALITY IS NOT THE ANSWER
I love Twitter, it’s so pithy and to the point. It reminds me that just a few words can say all you really need to say. It’s fascinating to see how much can be highlighted, and how lively the interaction between users can be.
In a very complex retail market, we are all forced to make decisions on buying, merchandising and discounts.
Several times Twitter has even had a practical use. Once, I had a supplier who had sent me a consignment of skirts that were literally half the size they should have been (we are a plus-size store), and when I tried to get some kind of redress from them (we had pre-paid for the skirts – yes, the curse of the pre-pay) they showed little interest. I wasn’t able to speak to anyone senior about my complaint, and my personal tipping point came when their slender young saleswoman rudely gave me advice about the style of the skirts, as if I didn’t know how a plus-size skirt should fit (we have been in business for 25 years). Ultimately, I wrote an ironic email to the saleswoman, suggesting that her company and I participate in a Twitter discussion about the fit of these “plus-size” skirts. I mentioned my 4,000 followers on Twitter, most of whom are in the plus-size industry. I also expressed that I could post photographs of the skirts, which were meant to be several sizes, ranging between a size 20 and 24, but all of which fitted my size 12 member of staff very snugly, so I had a willing model. I said I would happily supply the measurements in question to my Twitter following, and opined that the supplier would obviously want to be able to give their own input into the discussion. It was the boss of the company who replied this time, and I was instantly offered an apology and a refund. Personally, I doubt whether this would have happened without the “oxygen of publicity”. I’ve always felt that the most honest opinion comes not from the retailer, but from the customer. This is why I myself always trawl through reviews before I visit a shop or buy a product online. I was quite naïve to begin with – I never expected anyone to take the time to make comments about our service – but I have had at least 50 lovely posts on my website. People ask me whether I would remove “bad” comments from our forum. I can honestly say that I’ve never had one (sorry to sound smug), but I do believe that I would leave it right where it was, providing it wasn’t offensive. Obviously, our forum is only one type of social media. I do publicise things on our Facebook and Twitter pages. I’m not 100 per cent sure that either one of those media help with sales to any great degree. However, it is very interesting to read what’s going on, and to have a platform to tell others about our news.
The market is led by the high street, and spring 2015 has been a major battle, with discount signs up and down every shopping street and online. It’s a dangerous territory to be in for retailers, and it leads to a vicious circle of discounting and further discounting that is hard to break. The worst thing is it changes the mentality of consumers – they expect to receive discounts at all times, and few are actually prepared to pay full price. This might be something that the “big guys” can handle but, for smaller businesses and independent stores, it can be deadly. At James Lakeland, we have changed tack in our strategy – to be bold and go another way, if you will. We decided across our own stores not to participate in mid-season sales and instead focused on merchandising our shops and stores and really pushing what we have to offer; a contemporary brand with an edge, our collection all made in Italy, ensuring all are made from the highest-quality fabrics and sleek silhouettes. In a super-fast technological world, women can go to their phones and instantly view all the major brands, so an internet and e-commerce presence is an essential reality today. What is a plus point for an independent boutique is the service you can provide in-store and online. We have started pushing some of our best wholesale accounts to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and we photograph iconic pieces, which get amazing exposure and sell out, rather than focusing on discounts and always lowering prices. Our laser-cut jacket has had four repeats this season, as has our monochrome jacket, which has been re-ordered by over 20 wholesale customers. The consumer wants to feel special and have a great customer experience. We have given customers gifts with purchases such as free silk scarves in beautiful prints as gifts for April, which we find is far more personal than discounts. For the customers who only want sale offers, we would perhaps show them old stock where there are just odd sizes available, but this will peter out during the season. Also remember that customers are loyal and will come back to you time and time again if they receive great customer service. We still have customers who used to buy James Lakeland in Chester, who will now come to our stores in London because they love the brand.
Emma Hayes, owner, Emma Plus
James Lakeland, owner, James Lakeland
2 - 4 AUGUST 2015 Contemporar y Designer Show
20 - 22 SEPTEMBER 2015 Designer Collections Show
S A A T C H I G A L L E R Y, L O N D O N Find out more at scoop-international.com ÂŠ Maria Rivans, Carina, Limited edition print available at saatchistore.com
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Katie Lightfoot Founder, Lightfoot Showroom — HAVING SUCCESSFULLY FOUNDED PREMIUM WOMENSWEAR AGENCY LIGHTFOOT SHOWROOM IN THE MIDST OF THE RECESSION, KATIE LIGHTFOOT HAS SINCE ADDED ANOTHER STRING TO HER BOW BY LAUNCHING WOMENSWEAR LABEL MERCY DELTA. VICTORIA JACKSON SPEAKS TO LIGHTFOOT ABOUT MANAGING BOTH AGENCY AND BRAND, INTERNATIONAL EXPANSION AND HER DESIGN INFLUENCES. —
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Victoria Jackson: You launched Lightfoot Showroom in 2009, what drove this decision? Katie Lightfoot: I founded the agency because I wanted to provide consultancy and sales services to luxury labels. Five years ago I started with clothing label IRO and have since added the likes of Pull LDN, Vintage Heirloom, Karma, Sunday Somewhere, ByJada, Florence Bridge, Laael and Handbag Butler. Before launching the showroom I was the sales director of a British cashmere label – I started my working life in retail management, where I managed a Topshop branch by the time I was 18. VJ: What would you say is the ethos behind the agency? KL: If I was going to consider our key selling point in comparison to others, I’d say we believe every brand should offer a buyer something they can’t get elsewhere – something unique, if you like. I also take pride in the fact that Lightfoot Showroom is known for giving honest advice to labels about the commercial potential of their collections. It’s really very simple – at the end of the day we need to give buyers things that will sell. In terms of meeting with buyers, we work in a way that suits them best. Typically we’ll meet them in our W1 showroom, which is in the heart of Oxford Circus (8 Marylebone Passage) but we also show at trade shows in Paris and London. Scoop was fantastic for us this year as it allowed us to meet with buyers we might have potentially missed otherwise. VJ: What challenges have you faced since establishing the agency? KL: To launch as the global financial crisis hit was tough, but some of the most successful businesses were founded during the recession. Things are far smoother now for us as a business, though the UK clothing retail environment could be better yet. VJ: Not only do you run a successful agency, but you have also launched your own label, Mercy Delta. How did this come about? KL: One of my buyer friends at Harvey Nichols and I spotted a gap in the market for silk and cashmere scarves with strong, vivid prints. After realising there was a niche that could be catered for, I launched the label in 2010, expanding into blouses shortly after. We’re currently stocked in Harvey Nichols, Fenwick, Trilogy and many of the country’s key independent boutiques. In terms of international stockists, we’re available in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, South Africa and Japan, and are likely to push into the US by the end of 2015. I love Matches and Net-a-Porter as online luxury retailers, so if I was looking at a wish-list of stockists for Mercy Delta, it
“To launch as the global financial crisis hit was tough, but some of the most successful businesses were founded during the recession”
would have to include those two, along with Selfridges’ denim studio for our RTW collection. VJ: Why the name Mercy Delta? KL: It’s a reflection of my childhood. I was brought up on the beautiful East Anglian island of Mersea – which lies in the black water estuary. Mercy Delta was a romantic sounding derivation, my husband used to call the island Mercy instead of Mersea and it went from there. I liked it because it sounds and could be from anywhere in the world – a hidden gem. VJ: Who would you say is your target customer? KL: Our customer is a woman who always cares about her look, but who doesn’t fuss too much. She wants to put together a stylish outfit – for work, for fun – which is elegant but effortless. I used to say “yummy mummies” were a legitimate focus, but my team tuts at me for using that term. VJ: Where do you draw your inspiration from in terms of design? KL: We scrutinise the world’s catwalk shows for colours and trends. Our customer is looking for “classic with a twist” in terms of shapes. Prints and motifs are influenced by nature and geometry – but we review this on a season-by-season basis. We are finalising s/s 16 designs right now, and it represents a development in our story – with a couple of new directions.
or faces would you like to partner with? KL: Space NK was a great, natural fit for Mercy Delta – a personal favourite of mine, too. And Bip has been a great model and ambassador. Going forward, I’d love to hook up with Anthropologie, working on exclusive accessories. Elsewhere, we are in interesting conversations about extending our look into homeware and further beauty products. VJ: What influences your personal style? KL: My personal style is very classic. My staple look is a Mercy Delta blouse or cashmere sweater teamed with a pair of J Brand jeans, Saint Laurent riding boots, a vintage Chanel bag, and maybe the odd piece of Stella McCartney. My design heroines are Stella and Isabel Marant; both incredible in their own ways. VJ: How do you juggle the day-to-day running of both the agency and Mercy Delta? KL: The agency and the brand operate nicely together, and the UK team works across both. The business is obviously highly cyclical, so selling and production periods are stressful and entertaining in equal measure. Outside the mad patches, work is mostly office hours – and I’m a reluctant commuter, weighed down by giant bags. Friends outside the industry think my life is so glamorous – oh, how wrong they are. VJ: What’s next for both the showroom and brand? KL: Well, the showroom is now concentrating on a core set of labels that are a good match for us. In regards to Mercy Delta, we’re doubling in size every year, and 2015/16 is the international push for the brand. We’re both nervous and excited for it.
VJ: You produce your garments in India. Is British manufacturing something you would ever consider? KL: That’s right – our core facilities are in India, and I work from there for one month each year. We have an extraordinarily skilled team, and I’ve never met their equal in terms of screen printing and colour development. So while I’d never say never regarding repatriating production, it looks a long way off. VJ: You’ve collaborated with Space NK and UK fashion blogger Bip Ling previously. Which other brands
18 WOMENSWEAR BUYER WWW.WWB-ONLINE.CO.UK — MAY 2015
STYLE FILE The hottest brands not to miss this month —
Sunglasses label Linda Farrow’s latest Wanderlust collection for s/s 15 builds on the brand’s classic styles while introducing new designs, all carrying its signature detailing and frames. Colours range from neutrals to pastels, paired together with shiny metallic and liquid golds. —
British brand Little Mistress takes on an artisan theme for its s/s 15 collection. Offering a range of high-glamour party styles, the range features luxe fabrics and embroidery throughout. Floral prints combined with chiffons and vintage embellishments create an overall feminine appearance. —
Second Female’s latest collection is a transfusion of strong minimalism and a new bohemian urban look. A variety in structure and surface is key, while a tight, tailored fit forms a contrast to casual, oversized silhouettes elsewhere. —
JuJu, the original British jelly shoe brand, has launched its s/s 15 collection, featuring much-loved classics and brand new designs. Among the latest innovations are minimal chunky heeled sandals and strappy flatforms, alongside two-tone pool sliders. The label has been making jelly shoes since 1986 in its Northampton factory, producing over 80,000 pairs per year. —
New lingerie label Standard Drawers is launching this season with a range of versatile wardrobe staples. Highlights include the Standard Teddy, an easy pull-on with day-to-night appeal that looks as good underneath as it does worn as outerwear. —
Australian-born and London-based footwear designer Louise Leah has launched her first collection of luxury shoes. The sophisticated and yet feminine range features a number of woven detailed stilettos and exotic flats in a warm infusion of earthy tones, from forest green to deep yellow. —
THE MARKETPL ACE FOR LEADING BRANDS I N T E R N AT I O N A L F A S H I O N T R A D E S H O W | 7 – 9 J U LY 2 0 15 www.panorama-berlin.com
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NORTHERN LIGHT Having been bought by Danish fashion group DK Company last year, Soaked in Luxury is now ready to tackle the next stage of its development, with the UK a key market for the label. Isabella Griffiths quizzed sales director Hege Borgersen about the status quo and plans for the label. —
hen Hege Borgersen was appointed sales director for Soaked in Luxury in August last year, her job was pretty defined – to steer the label through a period of transition and ensure a healthy growth in the brand’s revenue and profits. Only one month prior to her appointment, Soaked in Luxury had been acquired by Danish fashion giant DK Company, alongside InWear, Part Two and Matinique, which had been divested by previous owner IC Companys. Change was therefore afoot, not only for Borgersen, who joined DK Company from Saint Tropez, but also in terms of the brand itself – which, having been tweaked and streamlined, is set up and ready for further growth. Soaked in Luxury has its origins in the brand O by Isabell Kristensen, which started in 2002 as a cooperation between IC Companys and the eponymous Danish haute couture designer. It was officially launched as Soaked in Luxury in 2005, with the purpose of bridging the gap between high-street and designer brands by combining the commercial values, affordable price points, large volumes and quick deliveries from high-street brands with the individualism, looks and detailing of designer labels. Having been bought and integrated last year into the umbrella of DK Company, whose portfolio includes well-known fashion brands such as BlendShe, B Young, Cream, Dranella, Fransa, Gestutz, Ichi, Inwear, Kaffe and Matinique, the brand has been put onto solid foundations, with Borgersen in charge of every aspect of its development and expansion. “Being bought by DK Company last year has meant a great deal for Soaked in Luxury. As a brand, we are no longer “stuck” in the old perception and history of who we are and what we can become, and we have more room to manoeuvre the label,” says Borgersen. “In DK Company we have an owner and management group that believe in our brand and the people behind it. This has made it possible for us to re-evaluate ourselves and make
the necessary steps to create a strong platform for the label. For instance, over the last eight months we have redefined Soaked in Luxury’s DNA and target group. We have accordingly also changed the DNA of our collections and our visual communication. We’ve presented the first changes to our customers, and they have been received exceptionally well.” Soaked in Luxury’s brand positioning is “somewhere between fashion-forward and fashion-following brands”, says Borgersen, with a low to medium price point and focus on affordability key. It might be luxury by name and luxury by look, but the price points are definitely not, with competitive RRPs ranging between £7 and £25 for basics, £12-£35 for tops, £18-£49 for jackets and £25-£69 for dresses. Borgersen lists stable-mates Part Two and Inwear as brand adjacencies, alongside the likes of Coster Copenhagen, Second Female and Gestutz – all, noticeably, Danish labels. This is not really surprising, given the long and continued success of Scandinavian labels and, in particular, brands from Denmark. “I think Scandinavian labels are good at creating wearable and everyday fashion that is appealing to a broad group of women, and we are not so hung up on what is happening on the catwalk,” says Borgersen. “Furthermore, there has been a Nordic theme that has been on trend the last couple of years. This trend is shown in Nordic food, furniture and lifestyle and fashion. I think being Nordic/ Scandinavian is associated with positive things such as high quality and good taste etc.” Borgersen’s assessment is indeed spot on, for it’s Soaked in Luxury’s relaxed and feminine Scandinavian style that is at the core of the brand’s appeal and popularity. The label’s design aesthetic is founded on five key principles, which Borgersen describes as follows. “Feminine – our products are to have a feminine touch or feminine interpretation. We do not limit ourselves to any important trends or tendencies just because they do not fit into our ‘universe’, but we
“Our target customers have in common that they love clothes and are interested in fashion. They are on-trend, but not trendsetters. It’s important for them to look good and have a fashionable appearance, and at times even look cool”
make the trends fit Soaked in Luxury. “On trend – our aim is to be on trend, which means being there when the trend hits mass market. Our consumers are not trend leaders, but we do not want to be too late. It’s important though to show that Soaked in Luxury knows what the next new trend is. “Vibrant – Soaked in Luxury is lively and vital, and this must be shown in our products, as well as our concept – for instance, through our use of colours. “Luxury in the details – we are to ensure that every product has that little detail that makes the product more special and luxurious. The ‘luxury’ can be everything; a special button, a soft quality, a flattering fit or an inside piping. “Easy to wear – Soaked in Luxury must have a generally good fit for most kinds of body shapes, and must be easy to mix and match to create different outfits.” It sounds like the wardrobe of a discerning clientele, and indeed the brand’s core target audience is 25-35 years, with women between 36 and 55 also of high importance. “Our target customers have in common that they love clothes and are interested in fashion,” says Borgersen. “They are on-trend, but not trendsetters. It’s important for them to look good and have a fashionable appearance, and at times even look cool. They are feminine in their style and want to
highlight their femininity, and have a flattering fit. They are social extroverts and have a positive attitude towards life.” In order to deliver the “on-trend” promise, Soaked in Luxury offers both forward and short order, with six selling periods per year – the main collection with a lead time of six months, the updates, catching up on the previous collection and bestsellers with a lead time of three months, and the express range, delivering what the market needs at the time, with up to one month lead time. This structure ensures that the brand remains dynamic and flexible with a fast route to market when needed. With the collection on point and the brand’s infrastructure also overhauled, Soaked in Luxury is gearing up for growth. The UK is an important market for the brand, which has had a presence here since 2008, with currently 40 stockists, including My Danish Wardrobe, The Women’s Society, Berties, The Beach House and Muse. Borgersen is confident that with the help of UK agency TCA Showroom, the account base can be at least doubled. “Our goal is to double the number of accounts we currently have, and I believe we should be able to have around 100 accounts,” she says. With its recipe of affordable luxury and a style that seems to be continuously in demand, it sounds like a very achievable goal indeed. —
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E-TAIL NEWS CROSS-BORDER SHIPPING AND RETURNS MADE EASY International postage provider UKP Worldwide, which specialises in the mailing and distribution of e-commerce parcels, postcards, letters and magazines, has launched a new service that simplifies cross-border shipping between the UK and US. With offices in both countries, the company focuses on helping European businesses reach their US customers, creating a bespoke service and both outbound and return shipping solutions. Low-value goods are shipped and delivered to US customers, while also taking care of customs clearance. Goods posted via a cost-efficient tracked service come with free email notification to the recipient, while goods posted via an untracked service get visibility of when items have been handed over to the US Postal Service (USPS) for final delivery. UKP Worldwide also offers a bespoke returns service. The system allows the client to set the parameters for their returns service – from the customer being able to choose an exchange or refund, the number of days a return has to be completed within, or to whether the client wants to offer their customers free returns for a certain product value. For more information visit www.ukpworldwide.com. —
CYBERTILL OFFERS RESPONSIVE WEBSITES Cybertill has launched responsive websites that link to its Epos system for a seamless clicks-and-mortar solution for fashion retailers. This comes as a response to Google’s recent announcement that it will favour mobile-friendly websites in search-engine results, meaning that retailers who don’t have mobile-friendly websites will see a drop in their rankings over time. “Retailers that sell online will need to ensure they have a mobile-friendly website, otherwise their rankings will drop and, as a consequence, so will traffic and sales,” says Cybertill CEO Ian Tomlinson. “We offer responsive websites to help retailers optimise their website’s performance. Google also recommends businesses have responsive websites rather than a separate ‘mobile’ website, too.” Cybertill provides retail software, such as fully integrated Epos and e-commerce, which allows retailers to sell in-store and online seamlessly. It develops responsive websites that enable retailers to give their customers the convenience of easily shopping on their site, no matter where they are or what device they’re using. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org. —
MOBILE PHOTO STUDIO TARGETS INDEPENDENTS Eme Digital is offering mobile photo studios targeted at clothing, footwear and accessory retailers wishing to take their e-commerce photography in-house. The mobile studios are available in varying dimensions suitable for a diversity of products, including the Fashion Flatshot XL, which is suitable for photographing dresses and coats and similar larger items of clothing. It features a uniform under-lighting with two extra product lights, creating high-quality images in a variety of formats and sizes. Images taken with PhotoStudio software and a compatible camera can be quickly shared with others via email, dropped into any other image editing application or saved to a designated folder. The photo booths are lightweight and portable and suitable for smaller retailers looking for a computer-controlled, constant volume lighting environment that fits into their set-up. For more information visit www.emedigital.co.uk. —
FIRST-EVER QUARTERLY SINGLE-DIGIT GROWTH FOR ONLINE RETAIL SALES The latest figures from internet research company IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index reveal online sales grew nine per cent in March and 11 per cent in February, meaning that the Index has recorded only single-digit growth for each month in Q1 2015 – the first time this has happened in any quarter. During Q1 2015, online sales grew by just seven per cent compared to Q1 2014, however this is on the back of a strong performance in Q1 last year, when annual growth stood at 17 per cent – the strongest Q1 growth seen since 2011. The growth is largely driven by mobile sales – purchases made on either a tablet device or a smartphone – which are up 9 per cent on the previous month and 46 per cent on March 2014. During the first quarter of 2015, mobile saw an increase of 38 per cent on the same period last year. Online sales in March were boosted by Mother’s Day, with items within the gift sector up 20 per cent year-on-year and reaching a 48 per cent peak during the week leading up to it. —
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OPEN FOR BUSINESS From logistics through personalisation to digital marketing, e-commerce is a complex undertaking and can be a bit of a minefield. WWB asked leading experts to give their top tips on how to optimise their online stores. —
TECHNOLOGY CAN CLOSE THE GAP FOR INDEPENDENT RETAIL
AUTHORITY MERCHANDISING – CONROLLING YOUR BRAND VOICE
Omnichannel retail has changed consumer shopping habits. Shoppers want to engage with retailers on their own terms, and demand a uniformly high standard of service online, in-store and on their doorstep.
Buzzword bingo Technology is seen as the starting point and finishing line for enhancing the customer experience, but it should only be a vehicle and not the driving force. Retailers are constantly bombarded with buzzwords such as “beacons”, “wearables”, “personalisation” and “multichannel” and how they will differentiate them in an increasingly competitive market. However, it is no longer enough to just provide the “wisdom of the crowd” personalisation technology and expect immediate results. Brands need to retain the ability to control their brand voice and use their retail expertise with the support of personalisation technology. This is authority merchandising.
High expectations of convenience among customers can present a challenge to smaller retailers that do not have the scale to compete with e-commerce giants moving massive volumes. Scale need not be a disadvantage; boutique retailers can build a unique identity through clever use of social media, and can make use of online marketplaces to give their brand a reach far beyond their local area. In many cases, smaller retailers can enjoy a lower investment in technology without the need to overhaul expensive and out-dated legacy infrastructure. Priorities for SMEs are beginning to change. In 2014, Collaborate UK, CitySprint’s annual look at the UK’s SME partnerships, showed an increase in outsourcing of externally facing aspects of their business. Two of the top three most outsourced functions were “marketing and advertising” and “sales and customer service”, as businesses double-down on their core strengths. In retail, the delivery of items bought online often shapes a customer’s lasting impression of their brand, and working with capable partners can do wonders for an independent retailer’s brand strength. Retailers are waking up to the important role of delivery in e-commerce, as research from YouGov shows that issues with delivery can cause considerable damage to the brand of retailers – 32 per cent of those surveyed would blame a retailer rather than a carrier for a late delivery. This has often been a stumbling block for smaller, independent retailers looking to offer customers greater convenience. Thankfully, help is at hand. Delivery partnerships can help to shoulder the burden on smaller businesses by providing consumer convenience even on smaller volumes, without compromising on quality. Partnerships like these allow SMEs and boutique retailers to offer a suite of delivery options like same-day and timed delivery, locker drop-off or click and collect, without significant up-front investment. This brave new world does not need to be intimidating to indie retailers. Small, nimble retailers can thrive if they adapt their e-commerce platforms to move with the times by focusing on their own unique offering and outsourcing to partners that have the same commitment to customer convenience that they do.
PATRICK GALLAGHER CEO, CitySprint www.citysprint.co.uk
Clicks and misses In 2014, IMRG revealed that £104bn was spent online, meaning that ecommerce accounts for an estimated 24 per cent of the retail market. The aggressive growth predicted, as well as mobile accounting for 40 per cent of all online retail sales, highlights that retailers need to assert their influence and expertise on their online merchandising in order to maximise the sales opportunity. Both retailers and consumers can benefit from personalisation and one-to-one real-time engagement. Retailers can use it to optimise customer acquisition, retention and conversion, while consumers see products, messages, promotions, images and campaigns that are personally relevant to them. Computer says “yes”; human says “no” Brand values can get lost if a balance between personalisation strategies and merchandising rules isn’t found. Retailers need to harness their data to truly understand the relationship between products and individual customers. By regaining influence over the technology outputs, retailers can ensure that what the customers see is intelligent and not intrusive. Creating the context Personalisation has the ability to transform a retailer’s online engagement, but if done incorrectly, has the power to truncate the customer journey. Authority merchandising empowers retailers to deliver their brand message and exert their retail expertise to show the right product to the right customer at the right time.
JOEY MOORE strategy director, Peerius www.peerius.com
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RETAILERS NEED PERSONALITY, NOT JUST OMNI-CHANNEL From the moment I wake up in the morning to the moment I go to bed at night, I’m swimming in marketing soup. There are ads on my phone, on the radio, at the bus stop, online, in print and on the TV. They’re talked about, tweeted about and written about – they’re simply in my daily sphere, whether I want them there or not. Before the industrial heyday, back when new really was new, brands, businesses and their products were there to serve a purpose. Nothing was arbitrary. Everything was crafted with love and precision. Nothing was made with money at its heart – it was about passion, pride and purpose. Craftsmen saw pains, and offered cures. They empowered and were empowered. They were successful because they made a difference. However, the mechanisation of retail meant things could be made at low cost, and all of a sudden purpose didn’t matter any more. It was all about making things as cheaply as possible, and quality took a backseat. This stood for a number of decades and, among other things, helped to catalyse the ad revolution. Then markets started to become saturated and, as technologies advanced, consumers started becoming more savvy, and more demanding. With the introduction of the Internet, brand communication was no longer a one-way street. Consumers could speak their minds widely, and with ever-growing spheres of influence. Soon, what people had to say mattered again, and it forced mass-market control to shift more and more away from the manufacturers, and more and more towards the people. They stopped needing you. Suddenly the mass production model looked a little shaky. And, whether you’re scared or excited, that brings us to now. You have to think deeply about what and why you exist. You need to think about what pains you’re soothing. You not only have to think about the consumer, you have to put them first. You have to understand their needs, and solve their problems, because otherwise they’ll just leave you behind. In the beginning there was only one channel – the bricks-and-mortar store – and life was simple. Then with telemarketing and the Internet… things became more complicated. This gave birth to cross-channel – the engagement of digital with retail. And just when we thought we had a handle on it, the Net became mobile, and gave us an even more complicated model to deal with – the multi-channel model, the standardisation of a brand across any number of channels. Omnichannel retail is the most seamless and refined of the channel Brethren but, for us, it’s still not enough. You might have your channels in alignment, and your user experience might be out of this world. Your product specs might be unrivalled, and your branding “cool”. So? Why should I give you my money, over all of the other brands
who claim the same accolades? I shouldn’t. And I won’t. This is why omni-channel is not enough by itself. You need to know just why you’re using the channels you’re using. It’s no good saying, “Everyone’s using Facebook and Pinterest; everyone’s got a new scrolling website or flashy video” – they won’t mean anything unless you know, to a tee, what they’re for, why they’re useful, and how they’ll impact the world. That’s how you get our attention. Not with cheap prices, and arbitrary, bandwagon trend selling. Show me a brand that’s doing their own version of Gangnam Style, and I’ll show you a brand without their finger on the pulse. You need one purposeful story, everywhere. It’s omni-channel Mark II. To find out why purpose is a great starting point, I suggest watching Simon Sinek’s Start with Why Ted Talk. Then have a deep, deep look at your customer, think about what service you are giving them beyond the products you sell. How do you make them feel, why should they care about you and why do you matter? Asking these kinds of question when it comes to your messaging online will force you to put service and your customer at the heart of what you do and how you do it. This is the type of mindset you need to create experiences that people remember and become loyal to. It’s not enough to simply have a great product and web design; you have to create a full experience. I read somewhere that if your service online makes people say, “That can’t be true” because it’s so unbelievably in service to them, you are on the way to creating a brand experience that will be shared and talked about. Once you have some really strong value propositions tied to a “Why”, you can then start to plan all of your messaging across your channels. And then everything becomes aligned and more useful to your target audience. Succeeding online is of course a complex combination of art and science, and we can only touch on the very basics in this article. The top line is there is more to e-commerce than selling your products. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, so make sure you start with being clear on that and see where it goes.
JOANNA CRUIKSHANK managing director, Folk www.wearefolk.com >>>
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GROWING AND OPTIMISING YOUR DIGITAL MARKETING A common challenge for SMEs looking to grow their online audience is knowing where to focus limited resource and how to structure their investment to get the best possible ROI. There is no right answer, but there is a sensible structure and process to use to help make commercially sensible decisions. This column shares some of my learning from more than 14 years of working with a wide range of B2B and B2C ecommerce companies. Step 1 – set clear goals, targets and objectives It all starts with a clear vision of what you need to achieve. Be clear on what success looks like, so define overall goals and targets for your digital marketing and split this down into individual channels and plan out the KPI (key performance indicators) metrics for each channel. It’s impossible to know if you’re marketing is successful if you have nothing to measure performance against. If you are already investing in digital, benchmark current performance to help inform your KPI model. Step 2 – make sure analytics and reporting tools are set up correctly It’s amazing how many web analytics tools aren’t customised to suit the business’ specific analysis and reporting needs. It’s too late after you’ve done the marketing to fix the data as web analytics tools don’t store historical data for tracking that hasn’t yet been configured. For example, I’ve worked with clients using Google Analytics (GA) who want to capture demographic data to help inform marketing targeting. However, many have been using the old GA version and not updated to Universal Analytics, so this data isn’t captured. Step 3 – create a simple marketing calendar and prioritise Trying to do everything at once has two risks: 1. Insufficient time to deliver quality across all activities 2. Stretching the budget across too many activities, diluting impact I find that it’s better for ROI, and learning, to do a small number of marketing channels well then lots averagely. Create a month-by-month marketing calendar to show the flow of activities per channel to help prioritise resource and give your team a clear focus. Each month flag who is responsible for each activity (including internal and external teams), key milestone dates and the allocated budget.
it’s essential to have a clear policy for engaging with people across all social networks. If you don’t have the resource to run your own proactive social media plan, ensure you are monitoring the social channel to respond to comments about your company. For example, for Twitter you can use a tool such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck and track tweets including your company/brand name. This is often a practical first step if you can’t justify the investment in a social media suite like Radian 6. Step 5 – push your email marketing Email still remains one of the best-converting digital marketing channels for my clients. It provides a direct channel to people who have shown an interest in your business and is a great retention channel. If you haven’t got an email plan, I recommend the following: • Create an account with an ESP (email service provider) – there are some fantastic low-cost options such as MailChimp and Dotmailer • Add email sign-up to the website – a simple form to capture the email address (make sure this form is integrated with your ESP) • Create a simple welcome programme for all new subscribers, eg send them a confirmation email one hour after they have signed up and send a follow-up “X” many days later with more information about your company and products. If you are already doing email marketing, here’s a checklist for growth: • Segmenting your audience by capturing additional data eg age, gender and interests • Add a test to each campaign eg test subject lines to drive open rates • Tailor the content of each email based on the customer segment • Use an activation programme for people who haven’t opened any emails within “X” months • Use a purge program to clean “dead” emails • Reward people for recommending your email sign-up to friends • Make it easy to share your email via social networks • Use interactive content eg polls, competitions? • Provide unique content eg exclusive videos, interviews and events I appreciate that this doesn’t cover all bases, but hopefully it gives some useful pointers on how to approach digital marketing growth.
Step 4 – ensure your inbound channels are ready to handle customers Make sure each person and team that has a role in handling inbound enquiries is briefed. This includes: • Agreeing internal SLAs (Service Level Agreements) for turnaround of customer enquiries • Ownership of social media queries and complaints • Clearly defined communication flow, eg if a customer sends a product enquiry, who picks it up, how is the answer captured and validated, who owns communication with the customer? Social media makes it easy for customers to spread news, so
JAMES GURD owner, Digital Juggler www.digitaljuggler.com
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BLOGGING FOR BEGINNERS Blogging is one word that either has people shouting from the rooftops or running for the hills. If you belong to the latter, this article by SEO consultant Jonny Ross is for you. Here, he shares his top tips on blogging for retailers, answering all those common questions and providing good reasons why you should be blogging. — In this day and age, blogging is vitally important for any business, in any market sector. It should form the basis of everything you do online as it can provide you with great original content and can give real power to your SEO campaigns. So why are so many businesses in retail still shying away from it? Well, blogging is a relatively new phenomenon, and trying to tackle such a daunting project is something that can seem impossible to achieve. Where should retailers start? Well, like anyone who is looking to start a blog, the first thing you need to do is to start reading blogs. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to start reading blogs that are specific to retail. Simply familiarising yourself with the blogging etiquette, what you should and should not be doing, what you think works well and ways to engage with your audience are all things that can be picked up when reading blogs. Not enough time? One of the benefits of blogs is that they can be accessed anywhere, anytime, on any platform. Whether you take five minutes on the bus to work to read your favourite blog or 10 minutes before you go to bed, taking the time to read blogs can really enhance the quality of your own blog. Who should write the blog? This is a very personal question and the answer will be entirely different for each business. Your blog should be written by someone who understands your business and your products, but most importantly your audience. Your blog should engage and form a connection with the reader. Therefore, whomever you decide should write the blog, whether it be you or another employer, should have the same burning passion and heightened understanding of who the blog is aimed at and the type of content they want to read. How do you decide on the content? This is often a tricky thing to decide. However, do not panic. One great technique that can be easily implemented is a content calendar. This can be created weeks, if not months in advance. Simply draw out – either on a spreadsheet or large notice board, however you work best – the days your blog will be published. Mark on any key events, such as Valentine’s Day or school holidays. Finally, go through and add on any industry events or events that are specific to your business. This way you will ensure that you can plan blogs that are relevant, engaging and informative for your readership while also being able to see what content needs writing for when and the date it needs posting. Also take inspiration from current affairs – what is happening in your industry that you think would interest your readers? Is there a specific development or news story that will have an impact on your audience? Make sure that your content will engage with your audience and is most of all relevant without coming across as sales-orientated.
How often should I blog? This question is extremely common, and it is a very difficult one to answer, almost the same as, “How long is a piece of string?”. In an ideal world, blogs should be posted once a week, preferably on the same day at roughly the same time so your readers know when to expect the blog and they can check in at the same time each week to read it. However, the world of retail never runs smooth and sometimes you need to simply post as often as you can. Creating a content calendar as mentioned before is a perfect way of ensuring you stick to a regular posting time as you will know exactly what needs to be written and when, allowing you to write blog posts in advance. However, you also need to remain flexible. A news story may break or there may be an announcement in the retail industry that would provide an interesting and engaging blog post. In this case, you may be required to post two blogs in one week. In answer to this question, there is no right or wrong. You simply must post as often as you can in order to achieve the maximum effect for your blog. How can a blog drive sales? Is it an effective tool? Did you know that companies that blog receive 97 per cent more links to their website than those that don’t? This statistic is just one of many that highlight the true benefits that blogging can bring to your retail business. It is an effective tool of increasing audience engagement, improving online reputation, boosting your SEO and ultimately your Google Page Ranking, cementing your business as a “go-to” within your industry and increasing your online footprint. The list of benefits is truly magnificent. However, blogging can also drive sales. By driving traffic from one online platform to the other, it can increase traffic visiting your website which subsequently has an impact on the sales made.
About Jonny Ross Jonny Ross is the founder of Jonny Ross Consultancy and has a proven track record in everything digital, from social-media campaigns to website design and development. With over 15 years’ experience working with B2B and B2C businesses, Ross is an expert on SEO and related topics. For more information contact email@example.com or visit www.jonnyross.com.
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THE PERSONAL TOUCH Your in-store service is individual and second-to-none, but how can you translate that personal approach online and improve sales? Leading personalisation provider Peerius showcases how the “big guys” are doing it and what retailers of all sizes can learn from them. —
When buying clothing in a well laid-out store, a customer can quickly find what they’re looking for and spot the perfect accessory. Or they can ask staff to suggest a whole look that’s tailored to their tastes and trends. Re-creating this experience online remains challenging, with retailers looking to a range of product recommendation solutions to better engage customers. In the past, Arcadia’s websites displayed basic recommendations, curated by style advisors. But manually maintaining recommendations on a fast-moving catalogue of thousands of products is a challenge. Some recommendations stayed live even when the product was out of stock. Most limiting of all was the fact that the same set of recommendations was displayed to every visitor to that page – there was no personalisation at all. Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Burton and Arcadia’s other online brands needed a cost-effective, automated and intelligent recommendation solution that could keep up with fast and furious stock turnover, engage with highly individual consumers and deliver a significant uplift in cross and up sells. Working with Peerius, Arcadia adopted the company’s Smart-recs technology across its websites, which focuses on an individual by examining their unique behaviour on the site. Thanks to a more personalised approached and tailor-made product recommendations, Aracadia saw order values jump by 67 per cent, while average units per order also leapt by 66 per cent. Commenting on the partnership, Joey Moore, strategy director at Peerius, says, “Arcadia Group partnered with us to support its overall strategy to maintain its status as the UK’s largest fashion retailer and export this heritage around the world. “We now support Arcadia Group in personalising the content,
products and messages on 10 of its apps and enable Topshop to operate in 10 countries,” he continues. “However, for all nine brands it is essential that they retain control of their individual brand voice and retail expertise, so ‘wisdom of the crowd’ technology is not sufficient. “Manually merchandising products requires a lot of time and internal resources, whereas our collaborative approach enables us to act as an ‘army of merchandisers’ and the merchandising and trading teams can focus on their core responsibilities,” adds Moore. “We call this authority merchandising. For instance, Topshop alone has hundreds of new products a week but our inference-based personalisation engine develops an understanding of what each individual customer is trying to do as they navigate through the site, establish a relationship between the product and the customer and serve relevant content in real-time at every stage of their journey. “However, personalisation is not just limited to larger brands as it is about scale. Often, smaller companies are planning to – or already experiencing – a period of rapid growth and it is essential that they have a strong understanding of their customer behaviour and focus their resources on driving relevant traffic to the site. Personalisation technology can be used to support an overall corporate strategy, from improving customer engagement, multiplying the ROI from Google Shopping campaigns, increasing conversion and driving sales. In such a competitive marketplace and increasing consumer expectations, it is likely that if you aren’t providing individual messages, recommendations, promotions and campaigns to each customer, then your competitor is.”
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WAYS TO PAY Card-not-present online and mobile payments are on the rise in the UK, making it increasingly difficult for merchants to stand out among competitors and attract digitally empowered consumers. Julian Wallis, head of sales UK & Ireland at Ingenico Payment Services, explains what it takes to start selling online successfully. —
he use of mobile devices for payment is at an unprecedented level. According to an Ingenico Payment Services study, almost half (47.6 per cent) of all Europeans have a smartphone, which means that consumers are constantly connected and can purchase online whenever they want. E-Commerce Europe, the institution that represents over 25,000 companies selling online products and/or services to consumers in Europe, expects the European B2C e-commerce market to double in size by the end of 2016, reaching 625bn Euros. As consumer confidence increases and new technological payment solutions continue to make it easier and safer for people to buy online, merchants must find new ways to engage with consumers if they want to increase sales and boost growth. To start selling online successfully, merchants will need to consider how best to set up online payment services, how to increase conversion at the checkout and improve business functionality while taking into account the latest developments in the payment world. Setting up shop online Merchants need to consider two key components when setting up e-payment services – setting up a merchant account and payment gateway, and putting in place an adequate card fraud prevention scheme. Most importantly, merchants will need to identify a merchant account and payment gateway that best suits their business needs and offer a streamlined and efficient payment process for customers. A merchant account is similar to a personal bank account, provided by a chosen acquirer that receives and processes funds from certain payment methods. A payment gateway connects the online shop to the acquirer so retailers can receive funds in their account from those payment methods. To set up an online shop successfully, choose a payment service provider that offers collect services that are tailormade to your business needs. Fraud prevention solutions Businesses must put in place an adequate fraud prevention solution – one that targets hackers but doesn’t hassle genuine customers. While online payments offer businesses the opportunity to increase revenue and engagement with consumers, there are still some risks involved. A study on fraud conducted by Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, reported that 60 per cent of payment card fraud losses were caused by card-not-present online fraud, which equates
to about 900m Euros. Furthermore, a 2014 European Central Bank (ECB) report concluded that CNP fraud has increased by 21.2 per cent in the past year. Not all businesses use specialist software to detect potential fraudulent transactions – the level of resource required will depend on the number of transactions and their retail sector. An Ingenico study about e-commerce business fraud concluded that e-commerce businesses with low online payment sales felt confident about their fraud management procedures and were manually checking transactions against black lists, customer history and other data. However, as businesses expand they will need to adopt a “fit for purpose” fraud management tool such as fraud prevention software instead of relying on authenticating all transactions manually. The report also concluded that the single most important feature of a fraud management tool was 3-D Secure, which helps merchants to reduce fraud risk, yet adds an extra step in the payment purchase. The purpose is similar to using a PIN code or writing a signature for a transaction. In practice, enrolled issuers implement an additional step of consumer authentication. However, 3-D Secure has a polarising effect in that it has the potential to alienate genuine customers who find it inflexible and not user-friendly. It’s important for retailers to implement a system that works for them and offers an easy and user-friendly checkout process that identifies potential fraudulent transactions. Increase conversion at the checkout Merchants need to increase conversions at the checkout and improve business functionality if they want to start selling online successfully. An estimated 25 per cent of revenue is lost by UK online retailers every year as a result of poor user experience, leading to cart abandonment – that’s equivalent to £14bn. To prevent cart abandonment and increase conversion at the checkout, merchants need to build consumers’ trust, act local and embrace tokenisation. Payments are left incomplete as a result of lack of payment options, security issues, technical problems or an inflexible and complicated checkout process. In regard to security, for example, 17 per cent of shoppers have abandoned their cart because of security concerns – hence another reason to implement a fraud management tool such as 3-D Secure. According to a 2014 study on digital shoppers in the US, 58 per cent of customers abandoned their carts as a result of shipping costs being higher than expected, while 25 per
cent of customers cited the inability to use their preferred method of payment as a reason for online cart abandonment. Customers trust online shops that feature a secured “https” URL, recognised trusted marks and logos, clear information about the amount to be paid, as well as the retailer’s logo and branding. Retailers should also consider tokenisation, which saves time for frequent buyers. Merchants who offer to remember card details increase their conversion by an average of seven per cent. Tokenisation removes the customer’s credit card number and replaces it with a randomly generated number, which can be configured to expire after one purchase, making it a useless target for fraudsters. More importantly, tokenisation removes what would otherwise be a major storage burden from merchants, because they never see a person’s actual credit card information and it never enters their online payment service. Think global, act local Merchants need to “think local” in order to increase conversion and boost business functionality. According to a 2015 Ingenico Payment Services study, 59 per cent of online shoppers abandoned their purchase when their preferred payment method was not offered. To prevent card abandonment, UK businesses must think outside the “credit card” box and go global. As the UK market is maturing, online sales are set to continue to grow in Western Continental Europe. It is estimated that 40 per cent of European Union customers shop online; and sales in the 13 largest online markets in the EU are estimated to be 200bn Euros, growing at just under 20 per cent per annum, according to research commissioned by RetailMeNot. Considering these figures about cross-border e-commerce, UK retailers need to ensure their business is best placed to process overseas transactions. Cross-border e-commerce leads to increased revenues for UK online merchants and is arguably the best strategy for businesses who want to expand and boost growth. Merchants will need to map the payment methods used across different markets and establish which countries they wish to target to process cross-border payments. Once retailers identify their international expansion strategy, they can determine their target markets. Executing a multi-currency option and accepting local currencies for local markets are two smart strategies for expanding e-commerce businesses across borders. As there are a huge range of payment methods out there, it’s important for retailers to identify which ones are most relevant to their market.
Mobile and digital wallets: the future of the payment world It is estimated that one in three people in Britain have used a mobile app to make payments. With the introduction of Apple Pay and Google Wallet – two leading payment services that allow payments to be made from debit and credit cards via a smartphone – it is no wonder that mobile payments are on the rise. An international study reported that thousands are using smartphones and tablets to pay. The IGN International Survey on Mobile Banking found that 51 per cent of Europeans with mobile devices will use mobile payment technologies over the next year. In the UK, payment apps such as Zapp are taking off and banks are signing up at increasing rates. While people still do use cash in transactions, mobile payment apps are giving customers more freedom and flexibility to manage their finances. Since mobile payment programmes are relatively inexpensive and simple to implement, businesses need to capitalise on this opportunity to increase online sales. Businesses can incorporate incentive programmes into mobile payment applications. All of the customer’s details are stored in one place on their mobile phones each time they make a purchase. When merchants link payments to loyalty programmes, it adds value to the customer. Switching to mobile payments gives businesses, especially small businesses, the ability to track customer trends and inventory. Learning about customer demands allows for businesses to improve their services. While the payment landscape and consumer demands seem daunting, there are various solutions for e-retailers to stand out among their competitors. Establishing streamlined and efficient payment services online, increasing conversion by adopting tokenisation and targeting international audiences to reduce cart abandonment as well as embracing the latest technological developments in the payment world are just a few ways that Merchants can increase sales and boost future growth projections. There has been a paradigm shift with the rise of online and mobile shopping: instead of offering a personalised in-store shopping experience, retailers must cater to customers by offering customised payment options or premium security preferences – which makes choosing the proper payment technology all the more critical. — Ingenico Payment Services is part of the Ingenico Group, a global leader in seamless payment. For more information visit www.ingenico.com, call 020 3147 4966 or email Julian.email@example.com.
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Independent retailer Hengelo of Haslemere in Surrey is building its online business to new levels to widen the net, quite literally, of its welcoming boutique, as Tom Bottomley discovers from co-owner, Kate Payne. —
t’s never easy for a small independent to set up an online shop to boost the bricks-and-mortar turnover. It takes a lot more time, devotion and money than many who step into the ring originally anticipate. But Hengelo, a small family run womenswear boutique in leafy Haslemere in Surrey, is giving it a damn good crack. With it, on average, sales online at www.hengeloshop.com are growing at some 20 per cent per month. Not bad when you consider they started the website from scratch a little over two years ago. It now represents 20 per cent of the shop’s overall business but, at a growth rate like that, it could potentially be a lot more very soon. Kate Payne, who runs the shop with her elder sister Helen Stride, says they took over an existing bricks-and-mortar womenswear business just over three years ago, renaming it Hengelo after a town in Holland where they grew up – and which, incidentally, means they have quite a strong Dutch following. But, also knowing Haslemere as well as they did, expectations were good. However, it’s one thing selling to local ladies who lunch, and quite another shipping to customers in the rest of the UK and around the globe. Investment is the key, though Payne is at pains, so to speak, to talk about how much. She says, “We only launched the website over two years ago, and you need to have a long-term view with an e-commerce site. It is not a silver bullet to guaranteed sales. It’s another dimension of the business that needs a lot of nurturing – the same as you would in your bricks-and-mortar store. The website is consistently developing, and alongside this we are investing to fund more growth as the sales increase.” Payne explains that they invested an initial amount for the
design and setting up of the website, and that was in accordance with their expectations. Since then, they have continually invested in the website as it is “an asset that needs continual adjustments, and there is always scope for optimisation and development. We also have a budget each month for SEO/PPC and social-media spend.” Constantly looking at ways of improving Hengelo’s online service and spending a lot of time testing the customer journey and reviewing how they can improve their service levels and the online shopping experience, are all key factors to ensure increased growth. “The website has many aspects, and we focus on these in different ways and promote them across a range of channels,” says Payne. “To promote the product pages and ensure we are there to capture active demand, we have a specific person who does nothing but monitor our Google AdWords account to make sure we are bidding on the right keywords and constantly driving potential customers through to the site. We do our own SEO and we also work closely with our web agency to monitor our on-site performance and increase our search engine visibility.” As she speaks, it’s obvious they have a clear handle on what they are doing online. As many retailers have stressed in the past, if you go into trying to trade online half-heartedly, with all the competition that is now out there, you may as well not bother because you’re just going to get lost at sea. All or nothing is the way forward. “We are very active across the key social-media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Pinterest,” says Payne. “We also regularly collaborate with influential bloggers and our suppliers to run promotions and further increase brand awareness within the shared space.” They also run a lot of competitions, both
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KATE PAYNE AND HELEN STRIDE
“We only launched the website a little over two years ago, and you need to have a long-term view with an e-commerce site. It is not a silver bullet to guaranteed sales. It’s another dimension of the business that needs a lot of nurturing – the same as you would in your bricks-and-mortar store”
locally and online, and get many people who look at their website. “They may call the shop or come in having browsed a collection online first,” says Payne. “Customers locally come to the shop and know exactly what they want. Many sales online are taken over the phone as some customers want a personal experience.” Hengelo’s brand mix is also proving a hit with online clicks and visitors to the shop. They sell both classic and more current brands to hit a wider audience. Key brands include By Second Female, Oneseason, Parka London, Vilagallo, Nice Things, Rosemunde, Paige, DL1961, Coco Cashmere and Marie Sixtine. On accessories and shoes there are brands such as Cocorose London, H by Hudson, Tatty Devine jewellery, Aspiga and Gandys flip-flops. “We have changed the business since we began and have evolved our buying according to our customer market,” says Payne. “Some brands sell better online than others, and we are always looking to add products that will do well on the website. Some of our latest brands that are doing well are Parka London, Rosemunde and Gandys.” She says their target market is very broad, and their customers can be anything from 25 to 95. “Our oldest customer is 95,” she points out, though whether or not she’s shopping online is another matter. “To put it plainly, we sell many brands and accessories that appeal across the generations,” adds Payne. One of Hengelo’s bestselling brands in summer is Oneseason resortwear, and the retailer has the whole collection available online. It currently offers around 80 per cent of Hengelo’s overall stock online and this is consistently increasing. Vilagallo is another popular label this spring, and Payne says their collections are “unique and original.” She also says By Second Female is “a fabulous contemporary brand for everyday pieces.” And one of their latest brands – Olivia Burton watches – is doing really well for them, both in-store and on the website. “In the summer, we sell a lot of accessories that go with our resortwear ranges, too, such as Hipanema bracelets, Ashiana jewellery, Bohemia straw bags and Aspiga flip-flops. We have the whole wardrobe for your summer trip
away.” Clearly Payne is pretty handy at sales, too. Unfortunately it’s hard to encapsulate such enthusiasm on a website, though, but that’s where the social-media side comes into play. Though the majority of their customers online are based in the UK and Ireland, there’s a growing following from Europe, the US and Australia primarily, but even customers now from Africa and Asia. “We are now regularly sending orders abroad”, says Payne. But the customers from Surrey tend to browse the website and then come to the store to do their shopping.” The future plan is to continue to invest online and develop the website while building Hengelo’s brand portfolio of products available to their online customers. “We are hoping the growth continues year on year, organically, and that it carries on being a major part of our business,” she says. “We expect consistent service levels on both on and offline and do everything we can to make sure our customers receive an exceptional service. For the website, we have had packaging made, and we make every effort to ensure delivery times are met and the customer is happy.” They are also in the process at the moment of moving to Epos, as they are now at a point where they need Epos to make the business more efficient. They maintain the website, and all of the content is managed in-house. The web administrator’s role involves planning and attention to detail to ensure the content is correct and stock levels are accurate. As well as products, they are maintaining the editorial content and social media content as the products go online. But when they have bigger projects online, they work closely with a web agency to ensure a smooth transition takes place. There’s clearly a lot of time, effort and thought that goes into it, and a lot of it is new or unknown territory, but for Payne and Stride it’s proving a cyberspace trip worth making. —
Short Order available www.llunaa.com For more information or to view the SS15 collection please contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0161 212 7590
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THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT With s/s well under way, it could be time to replenish summer stock. Rebecca Jackson looks at some of the on-trend brands available for in-store delivery now. —
LITTLE BLACK DRESS Classic shapes and clean cuts feature across the s/s 15 collection from Manchester brand Little Black Dress, with inspiration coming from iconic designers and stars such as Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn. Sophisticated details on dresses including cut-out designs on the neck and feather features along the hem provide dresses with that added extra. Wholesale prices: Around £30 Turnaround: Two days Contact: www.tcashowroom.com, 020 3432 6385
ALMOST FAMOUS Offering its usual eclectic range, London label Almost Famous has become well known for its range of dresses. Styles boasting vivacious colours and a multitude of prints are synonymous with the brand, and the s/s 15 collection sees the label in its element. Also available in summer colours are matching skirt and jacket combos and the denim range, which launched the brand in 2002. Wholesale prices: £30-£90 Turnaround: Two days Contact: www.aflondon.com, 020 7637 2622
Sugarhill Boutique’s s/s 15 collection is inspired by retro poolside glamour. The collection aims to capture the essence of summer with its use of pastel tones and colours typically associated with the seaside. With an aim of transporting its wearer to the poolside, key prints in the collection include palm trees, birds, elephants and watermelons. Items are designed to be mixed and matched for a versatile look. Wholesale prices: £10.70-£22.10 Turnaround: 48 hours Contact: www.sugarhillboutique.com, 020 3397 5180
Vintage-inspired brand Collectif returns for s/s 15 with its offering of iconic rockabilly designs and bold prints. Design reflects the classic pin-up style from the 40s and 50s, clashed with elements of rock ’n’ roll. The collection takes its inspiration from a “floral tea party”, featuring a soft palette of pastels and authentic feminine design. Think daytime vintage picnic, garden parties and occasionwear show pieces. Wholesale prices: £15-£65 Turnaround: Immediate Contact: www.collectif.co.uk, 020 7511 6224 >>>
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WIZARD JEANS The British brand returns with its trademark denim collection for s/s 15. Available in Malibu White, Bombay Blue, Pink Champagne and Lemon, the Wizard Candy jeans collection provides a refreshing update to the label’s usual offering, without comprising attention on the cut and design. Other classic styles that maintain popularity from season to season such as the Marilyn, Zara and Audrey jeans are also available. Wholesale prices: £37-£62 Turnaround: Next-day delivery if ordered before midday Contact: www.wizardjeans.com, 07768 816420
POPPY LUX The s/s 15 collection at Poppy Lux is inspired by summer festivals, holidays and tropical destinations. Key shapes for the brand include a classic 30s-inspired tea dress, a fitted shift dress, a strappy cami maxi dress and a casual T-shirt. Key details on garments are found in laser-cut scalloped edges and pleating. Meanwhile, standout prints include florals, pineapples, polka dots and palm leaves. Wholesale prices: £8.35-£15 Turnaround: 48 hours Contact: www.sugarhillboutique.com, 020 3397 5180
EMILY & FIN British brand Emily & Fin continues into the season with a focus on a feminine aesthetic. Designed and developed in-house, the brand offers a mix of summer party pieces and occasionwear suitable for wedding guest attire. Light pastel hues work in harmony with the brand’s key styles, which include full skirts, button-down dresses and curve-flattering designs. Wholesale prices: £11.50-£30 Turnaround: Two to three days Contact: www.emilyandfin.co.uk, 020 7812 9992
BELLFIELD The s/s 15 Bellfield collection revolves around all things tropical. Laid-back sundresses, T-shirts and dungarees feature across the range, and are available in the brand’s signature bold prints. Highlights include summer styles in light shades of denim with an embroidered design and flower cut-outs. Turn-ups on T-shirts and shorts emphasis the casual summer vibe. Wholesale prices: £4-£22.50 Turnaround: Three to five days Contact: www.justconsultancies.co.uk, 020 7639 7620
llunaa’s s/s 15 collection see the label focus on creating a feminine aesthetic. Draping fabrics and innovative designs are at the forefront of brand’s philosophy, and the range aims to merge traditional methods with new techniques and fabrics. With a combination of contrasting materials and designs, the overall product is a collection of pieces that look and feel contemporary and classic. Wholesale prices: £20-£55 Turnaround: Four weeks Contact: www.brandedlab.com, 0161 212 7590
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GIRLS ON FILM The key components of the Girls on Film s/s 15 collection remain its range of statement dresses, printed jumpsuits and versatile separates. Key prints for the brand this season include gingham, graphic florals and jacquard. The label introduces a 50s feel to the collection, with items such as bralette tops, full skirts and culottes leading the way. Wholesale prices: Around £14 Turnaround: 24 hours to four weeks Contact: www.littlemistress.com, 020 3397 5180
UNIQUE 21 The s/s 15 collection from Unique 21 focuses on the 70s, 80s and 90s. Taking inspiration from popular culture and events, the range features clean, modern tailoring, power dressing and a relaxed, bohemian look. Key styles include the Lottie long, sleeveless trench, the Brook tailored mid-length culottes, the Kelly and Ray double-breasted blazer and a skirt suit available in an embossed fabric. Wholesale prices: £5.50-£35 Turnaround: Within five days Contact: www.unique21.co.uk, 0161 839 9494
JAILBIRD The Jailbird s/s 15 collection introduces new fits such as the popular boyfriend and cigarette trouser styles. After the success of the a/w 14 collection, the brand has expanded with the introduction of shorts and skirts. Added elements of patchwork, distressed and exposed buttons are seen across the collection, while staple items are found in the brand’s classic colours including black, blue, grey and white. Wholesale prices: £7-£15 Turnaround: Immediate Contact: www.brandedlab.com, 0161 864 6035
SAHARA S/s 15 sees a new direction for Sahara, with the brand focusing on contemporary craft. The collection features hand-worked luxury fabrics that emphasise a relaxed summer vibe, while craft is reflected in hand-embroidered detailing, which can be found on graphic print jackets. A new design of harem trouser is also available in a lightweight cotton tribal print. Wholesale prices: £25-£80 Turnaround: Immediate Contact: www.saharalondon.com, 020 7483 8436
LILY & ME The Lily & Me s/s 15 collection focuses on re-creating a day at the beach, with coral tones, blue cotton and antique whites featuring across the line. Nature-inspired prints help create the look of an island paradise, while delicate floral prints clash with butterfly and seedpod patterns. Highlights include the Laura sundress in coral print and the Bethany maxi dress in butterfly print. Wholesale prices: £6-£18 Turnaround: Next-day delivery Contact: www.lilyandmeclothing.com, 01566 779477
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ANY OCCASION S/s 15 sees a theme of lightweight fabrics, holiday inspiration and a soft palette across occasionwear collections. Rebecca Jackson looks at some of the key brands available for short order now. —
BERNSHAW London brand Bernshaw returns with its selection of day and evening dresses in on-trend summer colours for s/s 15. Inspiration drawn from the recent catwalks sees the brand explore the modern world in its new collection. Dresses are made to flatter every body shape and are available in a wide range of fabrics. Styles vary from a sports-luxe mesh dress to sequin-embellished evening gowns and bright cocktail dresses. Wholesale prices: £80-£175 Turnaround: Immediate Contact: www.bernshaw.com, 020 7612 0100
CHRISTINA WU OCCASIONS
DRESS CODE Veromia’s mother-of-the-bride collection, Dress Code, returns with its s/s 15 collection, available in a sophisticated palette of soft colours. The stand-out item is the brand’s bestseller this season, a dove grey two-piece designed with a summer wedding in mind, made from lightweight chiffon and with a detachable cape. Wholesale prices: £135-£199 Turnaround: Immediate Contact: www.veromia.co.uk, 020 8502 2257
Formally known as Pretty Maids, Christina Wu Occasions returns after a re-branding with its s/s 15 range. The new collection features soft chiffon dresses with draped fabric, cowl necks, waterfall details and soft floating skirts. Stand-out design features include lace and sequin details, sheer illusion necklines, keyhole backs and bodice embellishment. Asymmetric pleating, vintage-style diamanté brooches and folded rosettes also feature across the collection. Wholesale prices: £65-£100 Turnaround: Immediate Contact: www.houseofwu.com, 01423 866720
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CRYSTAL BREEZE Crystal Breeze presents a glitzy range of prom dresses for s/s 15. The collection is designed to be lightweight for summer and uses fabrics such as tulle and chiffon, decorated with sequins, lace and crystals. Open backs and cut-out detailing at the midriff provide dresses with a summer update. Pastel hues feature across the collection, while darker colours such as navy, cherry and electric blue are also available. Wholesale prices: Available on request Turnaround: Immediate Contact: www.crystalbreeze.net, 020 8541 1199
JOSEPH RIBKOFF The s/s 15 line from Joseph Ribkoff mixes colours and patterns to create a versatile collection. Shades of blue feature across the range and mix with different textures to emphasise the appearance of contrast on garments. Clashing prints are also used to create a contrast. Raised surfaces work together with smooth textures to create a striking finish on garments. Wholesale prices: £80-£125 Turnaround: Two weeks Contact: www.josephribkoff.com, 0800 294 3373
L’ATELIER L’atelier’s s/s 15 collection combines glamour with fresh summer colours. The mother-of-the-bride range consists of flattering knee-length skirts and well-cut suits made from fine Italian taffeta and silk. Figure-flattering bodices are also available, and can be paired with boleros featuring delicate embellishments and handmade lace. Dresses are available in light hues for summer, as well as toned-down colours for an understated look. Wholesale prices: Around £99 Turnaround: 24 hours to three weeks Contact: www.franksaul.com, 020 8965 1522
CABOTINE Cabotine’s s/s 15 mother-of-the-bride and groom range is updated this season with styles available in fresh summer colours. The collection from Spain is available in a wide choice of vibrant colours and prints as well as the staple toned-down sophisticated hues. Dresses are offered in knee-length or below-the-knee options, with either wide straps or cap sleeves. Matching jackets and boleros are also available. Wholesale prices: £180 average Turnaround: Immediate to 12 weeks Contact: www.gndesigngroup.com, 0034 968873797
Champagne Fashions Ltd Unit 1C, Tewin Court, Tewin Road, Welwyn Garden City, Herts AL7 1AU Tel: 01707 32 08 08 Tel/Fax: 0207 281 94 94 Email: email@example.com www.goyalondon.co.uk
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OPEN TO QUESTION As the season of weddings, races, proms and parties gets into full swing, Rebecca Jackson speaks to three occasionwear stockists to find out how the current market is performing. — REBECCA FURBANK
managing director, Anne Furbank Fashions, St Neots, Cambridgeshire What is currently the strongest selling product category for you? We sell a number of different brands for occasionwear, but our three biggest contributors are Condici, John Charles and Paule Ka. Ultimately, the dress with jacket is the winning style. What price range do you feel your customers are most comfortable paying? There is a different mentality for s/s weddings and a/w weddings. However, if the outfit is right, customers will be happy to pay £500-£1,000. How does this affect your buying? We are conscious of price point, but in conjunction with value for money. If the customer thinks they can get similar on the high street, it doesn’t matter if it is £500 or £150 – they won’t pay for it. How have your customers’ expectations changed over the years in terms of their occasionwear purchases? With the internet, customers have the opportunity to do their homework before they even begin the shopping process. Even though we offer a wide selection of brands and styles for weddings, the mother of the bride/groom look is still popular. How do you view the competition from the high street? Where we score above the high street is the mix of brands and the service we provide. This is a big purchase and customers are often daunted by the prospect. We spend time with our customers, advising on fit and styling. We also have all the accessories so the customer can go out of the shop having bought the outfit, hat, shoes, bag and jewellery, and not move from one department to another – or one shop to another. Do you feel the occasionwear sector is strong, and will continue to perform well in the future? For us, the occasionwear sector is strong, but we have built this up over time and have a strong reputation for wedding outfits. It is not an easy market; you have to invest your time in your customers. You also have to make a big investment with your stock, and if you don’t sell it at full price it is difficult to sell in the sale so you need to make sure your sell-throughs pre-sale are good.
MAXINE THORNTON owner, Ragdoll of Pudsey, Leeds What is currently the strongest selling product category for you? We specialise in all types of occasionwear, and it performs well across the board. At the moment we’re performing well in the wedding category. John Charles, Ian Stewart and Irresistible tend to sell well. What price range do you feel your customers are most comfortable paying? Our prices run from £350 to £2,000 but, depending on the label, customers spend on average £1,000. How does this affect your buying? We try hard to get a good selection to suit all different buying styles and budgets because we want to cater for every customer and treat them the same, whether they spend £300 or £3,000. How have your customers’ expectations changed over the years in terms of their occasionwear purchases? Customers are savvier with the ability to research on the internet. Often they come into the store and have printed off pictures. Customers are more educated about our products. How do you view the competition from the high street? Smaller independent stores offer a different kind of experience that you can’t get in high-street shops. Do you feel the occasionwear sector is strong and will continue to perform well in the future? Yes, I do. The wedding business seems to be going from strength to strength. We’ve got lots of exhibitions coming up, and generally trade is really busy at the moment.
PAMELA MCKAY owner, Wish Boutique, Glasgow
What is currently the strongest selling product category for you? Promwear is outperforming every other category at the moment, followed by wedding outfits. What price range do you feel your customers are most comfortable paying? On average, £340. How does this affect your buying? We’re trying to price it up because the high-price items are always good to sell. We have a couple of bestsellers around the £500 mark and people seem comfortable paying more. How have your customers’ expectations changed over the years in terms of their occasionwear purchases? The customer is driven by the celebrity culture. It’s more focused around the stars of TV shows such as Towie and Made in Chelsea. People are influenced by the internet a great deal, with the likes of Youtube showing customers what’s available. How do you view the competition from the high street? I think it offers a lot of choice, but there’s a danger of someone showing up to an event in the same dress. The customer knows that if they want to buy something more unique, they have to go away from the high street. Do you feel the occasionwear sector is strong and will continue to perform well in the future? I like to think it will continue, but you never know what can happen. I’ve been in business 10 years and it can change in a flash. It’s important to move with the times and notice when trends change. For example, currently the trend seems to be moving away from glitz and embellishments and more towards sophisticated cuts.
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RETAIL DIARY We’ve made a few changes to the ground floor of the shop this season. The mix used to be predominantly smart-casual, but we’ve recently introduced some more strictly casual pieces. We felt that our s/s collections needed some more entry price point tops as “add-ons” to go with jeans; ones that would come in at around the £50-£60 mark, rather than £100-plus. We were basically looking to introduce items that were not too expensive and could easily be added to a purchase without too much consideration, creating full outfits. We have found that buying for s/s in recent years has become more of a challenge, largely due to the fact that customers just don’t know how warm it’s going to get and so resist investing in the s/s collections. In the winter, however, we all have a virtual guarantee that we will need warm clothing, so we don’t find our customers resist winter purchases in the same way. By mixing more affordable tops with a pair of Armani jeans, we can far more easily increase a customer’s purchase and achieve a more significant sale and a satisfied customer. Second Female and Silvian Heach have been especially successful in this respect. As an independent, what’s equally important for us is that the branding is strong and it doesn’t devalue our higher-end brands. I have found that our suppliers have become more supportive and flexible over the past few years. Whether it’s a question of stock swaps or minimums, I have felt that they’ve been more willing to work with us. This attitude is greatly appreciated, since it makes no sense to dictate to a small independent how to buy into a brand when the retailer knows the customer better than anyone. Personally, I would never take on a brand and not give it at least two or three seasons to work, since I don’t see the point in giving my commitment to something unless I’m willing to give it chance. — Beckie Kingsley is the manager of Ginger womenswear boutique in Norwich, and is a member of the Fashion Association of Britain (FAB) www.fashionassociationofbritain. co.uk
RETAIL FORUM The latest news from the industry —
BRAS & HONEY EXPANDS INTO AMERICAN MARKET
SUCCESS FOR BATH IN FASHION 2015 Last month’s Bath in Fashion brought big names from the global fashion industry to the city, with high-profile names such as designers Anna Sui, Holly Fulton and Roksanda Ilincic, as well as Vogue’s Jessica Bumpus and head of fashion at Sunday Times Style, Claudia Croft among the line-up. The event, which was organised by the Bath Business Improvement District (BID) as a city wide collaboration involving more than 120 businesses, attracted more than 2,200 visitors. The programme featured around 40 events including talks, catwalk shows, hands-on knitting and jewellery workshops, films at the Little Theatre Cinema, a vintage fashion fair, exhibitions and a community crochet project to create a colourful yarn bomb installation on Milsom Street. Andrew Cooper, chief executive of Bath Business Improvement District, says, “Retailers have been quick to comment on the impact of the event, with a marked increase in sales, footfall and vibrancy during the week.”
British lingerie retailer Bras & Honey is set to expand into international territory this summer. The retailer, currently based in Stockport, has purchased an independent lingerie boutique in San Diego. The move will see the indie offer its range of swimwear and lingerie designed especially for bigger-busted ladies to the American market. Nicola Rodney-Crook, director of Bras & Honey, says, “When the opportunity arose to expand Bras & Honey to US shores, we wholeheartedly harnessed it. Busty American women have exactly the same issues as ladies here, and we’re confident they’ll love every garment showcased on our site.” —
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WALKERS OF POTTERGATE CELEBRATES 25 YEARS Norwich indie Walkers of Pottergate celebrated 25 years in business with an in-store party last month. Guests were wined and dined on sushi, cake and champagne during the evening, while listening to live jazz. Meanwhile, a fashion show competition saw the winner take home a £250 voucher to spend at the store. At the end of the night, guests were presented with a commemorative scarf featuring the names of the retailer’s most loyal customers. Anne Rowe, founder and owner of Walkers of Pottergate, says, “It was a thank you to the ladies who came. I don’t think customers know how valuable they are, and we wanted to show them that we put a lot of thought into the event.” —
10TH ANNIVERSARY FOR THE DRESSING ROOM St Albans indie The Dressing Room is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, the store will host a series of parties, competitions and events, which will last throughout the summer. Celebrations are officially kicking off later this month with the store’s big birthday party, which will see guests treated to exclusive discounts, goodies and special games such as fashion pass the parcel. There will also be flash tattooing and a charity raffle on the day. —
MY LAST PURCHASE
What do customers value most when they step inside your store? — “The friendly and inviting environment created by the shops and our staff sets the tone for the customer once they enter our stores. After which the customer loves the opportunity to pick up something new that is ROSE HORSFIELD unique. We have new stock Owner, Pookie, Silkstone, arriving weekly, so there is Barnsley, and Harrogate, always something new.” North Yorkshire —
“Honesty. Let’s face it, nobody looks good in everything and nobody likes being told they look good in everything. I like to think that customers value my honesty, and that my approach makes them feel at ease. They see me as somebody who SOPHIE TAIT Sales advisor & social wants to help and not as a media co-ordinator, pushy salesperson.” Lynx, Harrogate, North — Yorkshire
ZAIDHA ROSCOE Owner, Flamingo, Preston, Lancashire
Heidi Gosman is creative director, designer and co-founder of Heidi Klein, London W3. “My last purchase was a white James Perse jersey shirt from Saks in NYC. I’m slightly obsessed with white shirts as they look good with everything and are ideal for long haul flights. This one has long sleeves but I have them in short sleeves, too, in three other colours – black, beige and navy. James Perse shirts are super lightweight and look great with jeans and shorts, etc. I even wore one for our photo shoot at Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands (pictured). I can wear it everywhere.” —
DIANE ALLAN Co-owner, Algarde, Biggar, South Lanarkshire
“Customers tell us they enjoy the whole shopping experience; the service, the environment, the refreshments, but most of all the sheer amount of choice we offer. They can get everything from a pair of jeans to a mother-of-the -bride outfit all under one roof.” —
“Our customers look for friendly, approachable staff, and a clean and attractive shop. It’s also important to have a great choice of merchandise, competitive prices and peace to browse without pressure to buy. Of course, help and advice is always there when needed.” —
48 WOMENSWEAR BUYER WWW.WWB-ONLINE.CO.UK — MAY 2015
STEAMERS AND IRONS
Turn your overstocks into CASH We pay MORE, because we dont sell on Any quantity David Oliver Phone: 0208 736 0088 Mobile: 07836 389399 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL —
TV presenter and actress Kelly Brook is the face of Skechers and the first-ever UK ambassador for the Californian label. —
How does it feel being the face of Skechers? It is exciting being part of a company that has Demi Lovato and Ringo Starr as ambassadors, as well as its previous celebrities Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Skechers is a global brand with reach around the world. How did the collaboration come about? The label means more to me than people can possibly imagine – I was knocking on the brand’s door for a while. I am honoured to be a part of the Skechers family because I love everything that the label stands for. What do you love about the brand? With Skechers I can mix comfort and style in my trainers, allowing me to look and feel good whatever I’m doing. It really is a dream. Your TV campaign launched last month – what did you think of the final TV ads and print media? I feel like everything has really come together now that the campaign has launched over here. I was so pleased that the final ad really captured my personality – it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek and that’s what we are all about in the UK. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. —
— Who is your style icon? I love woman like Raquel Welch and Jane Fonda; those who are known for their fitness and amazing bodies and still look great. I love strong, powerful women. Which fashion business do you admire? I admire anyone who can make a business out of something they love. I think Vivienne Westwood is incredible. What’s the best piece of advice you have been given during your career? Understand that as an actress it’s a 50-year career, so don’t be upset if you have times when you’re not working. It’s a tough business, and you have to deal with a lot of rejection in the beginning. What’s the one fashion item you can’t live without? At the moment, my black J Brand leather trousers, which I wear all the time, and of course my favourite Skechers memory foam trainers.