Designer Brands Selling Direct is the New Black
Once upon a time, small fashion brands could only ever dream about getting their products into a big named department store. Nowadays, however, many of the most forward-thinking brands would rather cut out that middleman. Fed up with tough terms from big retailers, and retail prices that become totally inaccessible to shoppers, designers are selling their portfolio direct to shoppers through their own independent stores and websites.
A Different Approach
Many designers have been complaining for a long time about the tiny margins they get from big retail stores. Not only that but department store staff are often poorly trained on the fine points of each brand and product and lack the skill to not only educate the customer but close the sale. Direct selling creates a relationship whereby the brand can service the customer better.
A ‘Win-Win’ Relationship
A direct relationship between brand and customer removes any middleman and, therefore, cuts out any margin that they take. However, it’s not just the promise of competitive prices and saving money that attracts customers but also the promise of excellent customer service and lenient return policies. Not only this, but many independent brands are promising total transparency – vowing to always remain transparent in how the products are both sourced and made. Take, for example, Everlane who got lots of attention during their launch in 2010 when they published videos about their production process. One film depicted a t-shirt from cotton to shirt which subsequently went viral.
On top of this, let’s think about speed. By implementing a ‘middleman’ the supply chain is slowed down. This means that when goods hit the store, they often feel stale. Direct-to-consumer brands speed up the supply chain and have a product available for sale as soon as it hits Instagram.
Not Just for Small Fry
This new business model is not just for the small brands hoping to enter the market. On the contrary, when Tamara Mellon launched her namesake shoe brand she refused to sell into department stores and stuck only to online from her own platform. Perhaps, savvier after her bankruptcy, the recent header on Mellon’s Facebook banner said "Excuse me while I rewrite the rules of luxury."
If it was Easy, Everyone Would do it
While this process sounds simple, and satisfactory to all parties – direct selling comes with risk. Early adopters of this trend were able to get a buzz because they were perceived as unique. It’s not as impactful if there are 50 similar stories every year. However, independent designers are hopeful that instead of this model becoming a ‘trend’ it starts to become the norm. After all, once a customer purchases luxury designer products, like bags and wallets, at a lower price and is sequentially rewarded for their loyalty – it might be hard to go back to faceless (and expensive) department store shopping.