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Close-Up Preview: Q&A with BrandAlley CEO Rob Feldmann

Drapers gives you an exclusive sneak-peek of our Close-Up with Rob Feldmann, CEO of private sales website BrandAlley, ahead of the full interview in this weekend’s edition.

It’s been a busy year for you having led a management buyout in January and then undertaking a period of investment in the website ahead of a full relaunch at the end of the August. How is BrandAlley faring financially?

Well if you look at our results from last year [2012] we grew 14% to [turnover of] £33 million. And what we want to do, what we’re aiming to do, is maintain that steady growth over the next couple of years. We’ve had 60% compound growth between 2008 and 2012, which is enormous. So we obviously can’t continue at that rate but we want to keep on growing, adding better brands and having customers that love our site.

Will you be changing your delivery and returns proposition, to include offers such as an Aurora-style 90 minutes delivery?

On delivery we want to offer very quick delivery within the main urban centres, but not 90 minutes. We’re looking at if you order before 12 you will get the product by the same afternoon.

Considering the cost implications of offering that service, is it really more of a PR stunt than a revenue driver?

Umm, partly yes. I mean it’s just if our customers really want it we’ll do it. We’ll [just] make less money on it.

How much of an issue are returns for BrandAlley?

Our returns rate has actually fallen in the last year. We’re running at about 20% returns. It’s dropping because we use Dressipi, which is a size widget that says you might be a 10 in a Whistles dress but that’s actually a 12 in French Connection. It does all the comparisons and it definitely helps.

Which categories are performing best at BrandAlley?

Category is really interesting this year. [We’ve seen] enormous growth in handbags. We’re 55% up year-on-year for the first quarter for handbags. Savvy shoppers are happy to say that they’re saving £300 on their handbag. People’s shopping habits have just changed, it’s irreversible.

In your view, what challenges is the wider fashion sector facing?

Well there are a few things. One I have been thinking about is what brands have to do on the high street, because nothing appears to have changed this year. You go around on the high street and it’s still clearance, clearance, clearance. There were three or four brands like Hugo Boss, Ted Baker, and Joules, which absolutely just have their two clearances a year and they stick to it. They are the ballsy ones. They say that’s the way we’re going to do business, they don’t deviate and I think that’s the way forward. A lot of other brands are going into markdown because their competitors are and you get this terrible experience where customers just go to the clearance racks, have an unpleasant experience and walk out. So I think retailers need to have agreed sales times and a certain number of sales a year and then maybe do the discounting online where it looks more attractive.

I think the other thing is the terrible stories about Bangladesh and what’s happened there. All fashion brands have to look really carefully at what they are doing and where they are sourcing from so that this never happens again. I think that is a pretty key message that everyone will be looking at this year.

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