Drapers probes leading independents to get their View From the Shop Floor.
You launched your business in September as the credit crunch hit. How’s trade now?
It’s not bad. I hadn’t planned to launch during a credit crunch. I’d been researching the concept for months and finally decided to bite the bullet and leave my job in TV in August with no idea the economy was going to plummet like it did. I think we’re surviving well though. I don’t yet have anything to compare it with in terms of this season last year, but since we launched we’ve seen a consistent week-on-week rise in sales and in visitor numbers.
How do you think the ethical fashion market is faring?
I think there are similarities with the organic food market. If people are staunch customers of organics they will stick to their beliefs. They may compromise on some products but will always buy organic milk and vegetables. It is the same with fashion; people won’t forget their beliefs just to save money. Attracting new customers is harder, but I think there’s been a general move away from the throwaway fashion culture. People are looking for quality and things that will last. They are cutting back but the ethical movement is definitely still growing momentum. Even the likes of Mary Portas have been quite outspoken on the matter, which all helps the cause.
What are the biggest challenges for online-only outlets now?
The biggest difficulty in not having a physical store is that people can’t try on the clothes, see them close up or feel the quality. It’s particularly hard when, like me, you stock small, lesser-known brands. Net-a-porter wouldn’t have the same problem.
How do you overcome that to promote your small brands?
I do a lot of extracurricular activities. A few weeks ago I had a pop-up shop in London where people could come and try on the clothes. It’s particularly important with these labels that people appreciate the quality and craftsmanship. It was also a good opportunity to speak to a lot of customers to get feedback about the site. I sometimes sponsor events run by online magazines where I get the chance to show some product and talk to potential customers.
Which of your brands are selling best at the moment?
Bidico and Komodo are both doing really well. I think it’s because they have a very attractive price point for all customers. Dresses are about £40.
And which styles are going well?
We’re definitely selling more dresses than anything else this season. Maxi dresses are doing particularly well because they suit so many different sizes.
Do you discount every season?
Yes. Our last big Sale was in January but we also do some smaller mini Sales throughout the season. I’ve just done the first for this season, which was a 30% discount on all tops for a week. It gives us another reason to email customers and get them to the site.
Are you looking at any new brands for next season?
I’m always on the lookout for new brands. I’ll be adding two for autumn 09: Annie Greenabell and Nancy Dee. I’m an advocate of the small brands and definitely want to support new talent.
- Emily Best owner of online ethical fashion store Bochica
- Brands include Bibico, Frank & Faith, Komodo, Made-By, Miksa, Terra Plana