The streetwear label’s strict distribution policy gives it an aura of exclusivity and ensures high sell-through.
The original Billionaire Boys Club was the nickname for an investment firm which a group of Harvard-educated young men in Los Angeles were lured into joining with a get-rich-quick promise by charismatic sociopath Joe Hunt. But when funds ran dry in 1984, Hunt turned to murder, for which he remains behind bars to this day.
Fast-forward 19 years and Nigo, a Japanese stylist and founder of cult streetwear label A Bathing Ape, hit upon the idea of launching an Americana-inspired premium streetwear label with hip-hop star Pharrell Williams.
Billionaire Boys Club has one of the most heavily policed distribution strategies on the planet, subscribing to the same ‘strict supply equals ravenous demand’ business code that has helped keep Nigo’s A Bathing Ape brand among the highest value fashion commodities traded on auction website eBay.
Unlike A Bathing Ape, which is only available from the brand’s international flagship stores in Japan, London, New York, LA, Hong Kong and Taipei and most recently a shop-in-shop in Paris’s Colette store, Billionaire Boys Club is available at wholesale although the network of stockists remains intentionally small.
The brand has seven UK accounts – Harvey Nichols, Dover Street Market, Hideout, Triads, Flannels, Choice and Dogfish – selling from 20 stores. “We want to grow the business through the customers we have,” says Craig Ford, UK and EMEA brand manager. “That doesn’t mean we don’t want new customers but they can’t compete with the guys we currently work with.”
The buying and delivery programme is strictly managed which, according to Ford, ensures “every account is guaranteed good sell-through”.
In its first buying season any new customer must buy styles from each product category, and is limited to four pieces on each style. So, if a polo shirt is available in four colours the retailer can buy four garments (ie one in each size) in every colour.
“Customers can buy into lots of styles and provide shoppers with variety but they can’t buy in depth, which means anyone buying our products is unlikely to see anybody wearing the same thing,” Ford explains. “We ask that weekly sales reports are emailed to our London office, where we monitor demand and edit distribution accordingly.”
Prices range from £28 for T-shirts to £100 for jackets. Each season’s merchandise is divided into 11 mini collections, or rails, which are delivered to stores every fortnight.
Ford says: “A theme will run through each collection and each rail will be merchandised and tailored to the respective country’s weather. Our spring season starts in January, but in January we only deliver heavier garments and hold shorts back until July.”
On the thorny issue of late payments, Ford says: “If they’re slow at paying they won’t get the next delivery.”
2.5: The margin Billionaire Boys Club offers retailers
11: Number of deliveries per season
7: Number of UK accounts
20: Number of doors in the UK