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Bunty Stokes

The UK sales and merchandising boss of online designer discount boutique BrandAlley tells Melinda Oliver about her role in the site’s UK launch.

What is the BrandAlley concept, and how has it been adapted for the UK?
BrandAlley is a private Sale website that originally started out in France to offer discounted designer fashion. Customers sign up as members, then we send an email alerting members to a Sale on a particular date.

We have two Sales a week that last from three to seven days, consisting of either a brand with an assortment of product areas or a product category with an assortment of brands. We’ve had to adapt the French model to what UK shoppers expect – the UK is very different to the French market in terms of brands, pricing structure and competition. But the private Sale concept is the same, and we aim to boost Sales to four a week.

What has life been like for you since BrandAlley’s UK website launched in February?
It’s been really hectic, because off-price [discounted designer fashion] is a constantly evolving business. With online retail, you receive feedback in real time, on an hourly basis. You can see which brands are working and can act on that by doing deals to support the interests and demands of our customers.

And that feedback will ultimately mould our business’s strategy going forward. It is a very reactive environment, and there is never a dull moment.

Since joining BrandAlley in December, what has your role involved?
In the short term it has involved recruiting a team of buyers and signing on brands. In the long term it will be about managing those buyers, running the business strategically and getting involved with the relationships and deals that we do with major brands.

What products have proved most popular on the site?
Premium brands that have a whiff of customer interest do particularly well. That interest may be aspirational, because some customers may not be able to afford full price, but they may be willing to invest in off-price. Clearly value is important, as is demonstrating that a product represents a great saving to customers. Lingerie, watches and denim have been working particularly well.

What was your career path prior to joining BrandAlley?
In 1996 I started at TK Maxx as a menswear buyer and left in 2000 to set up an online pan-European factory outlet called I then worked for Mulberry, heading buying for the retail division. Then I went back to work for TJX Corporation, the owner of TK Maxx, where my role was to source brands from all over Europe for the company’s 1,600 US and 160 Canadian stores.

After a couple of years I moved back to TK Maxx in the UK to lead the womenswear buying team. My last role at TK Maxx before joining BrandAlley was heading the lingerie team.

What are your plans for the future of BrandAlley?
It would be great to mirror the success of BrandAlley in France and become the biggest and best private Sales company in the UK.

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