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The Laden Showroom kicks off retail push

Brand agency The Laden Showroom is to expand its retail operation with the launch of a transactional website and the opening of a raft of department store concessions and retail stores in a bid to grow sales fivefold over the next five years.

The Laden Showroom acts as a wholesale agent to 70 up-and-coming contemporary and young fashion labels such as Renee London and Love Milly. It already operates a store in east London’s Brick Lane, in which it rents space to more than 70 brands including Ruby Rocks, Upper 5th and Emma Fielden and takes a commission on all sales. A transactional website, www.laden.co.uk, will go live on February 22. The online model will work differently from the store in that The Laden Showroom will buy product outright before selling it.

Some 70% of The Laden Showroom’s turnover comes from the agency business and it sells some of the labels to etailer Asos as well as five other websites including Swedish etailer Nelly.com. However, Steve Walters, who joined the company as retail director last October from his role as managing director of young fashion etailer EBTM, said the company was keen to drive its retail operation, over which it has more control.

It hopes the launch of the transactional website will open up opportunities for department store concessions under The Laden Showroom name, with the likes of John Lewis and House of Fraser. It is unclear how the business model for potential concessions would work.

Although wholesale sales growth has outstripped that of the Brick Lane store - wholesale grew 50% year-on-year in 2009 against single-digit growth at the store - Walters said retail offered huge potential.

He said: “We want more control of the business and retail is the way to do that. Wholesale can be unpredictable. We’ve had internal conversations about launching concessions and further stores and have the infrastructure in place to do that.”

Walters added: “The Laden Showroom is now looking to act as an umbrella with lots of labels beneath it, in a way that is not dissimilar to what Selfridges achieved with its Spirit [young fashion] section.”

The business is also keen to take on new labels and representatives of the company will attend exhibitions including Magic in Las Vegas on February 16-18, London Fashion Week on February 19-24 and Bread & Butter in Berlin, which runs from January 20-22, to source new labels.

Walters added: “The website will launch with 40 of our best-selling womenswear brands, but its launch gives us scope to sell more brands at a time than we do in the store.”

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