With retailers closing down, some for lockdowns and others permanently, fashion brands have had to regroup and rethink their efforts in record time. The businesses who are best set up for success, like ApparelMagic client Lola & Sophie, have completely recalibrated their businesses as we enter a new era.
For Lola & Sophie founder and designer Gene Kagan, it starts with asking the big questions.
“How do we reach our end consumer?” Kagan remembers wondering at the onset of the pandemic and the industry’s mounting retail woes.
For a womenswear brand doing the vast majority of business through wholesale, this past year set the stage for an evolution in strategy.
“In 2019, ecommerce was 10% of our total revenue,” Kagan says. “2020, we’re looking at 30%, and I suspect that 2021 will be a 50% split.”
Those numbers reflect some big changes behind the scenes. Ecommerce sales require some reliable digital infrastructure, and ApparelMagic has been the label’s data powerhouse when it comes to going online.
“ApparelMagic has been instrumental in our pivoting to a direct-to-consumer business model and incredibly flexible with the changes that we needed to make in order to survive this incredibly challenging business environment,” Kagan says.
Kagan’s colleague, ecommerce manager John Cioni, agrees, seeing a myriad of unique ways the brand has used ApparelMagic in recent months.
“At one point we didn’t know who would and who wouldn’t be taking orders,” Cioni says. “So the reporting where we could see projections on our inventory going out into the future was really helpful.”
Cioni cites the ease of working with ApparelMagic’s API to add new functionality to Lola & Sophie’s ecommerce site that all syncs back effortlessly to ApparelMagic.
“We added to our website support for backorder and preorders on styles so we could rapidly recut if need be,” Cioni says. “It’s been great because it allows a revenue stream that may have not been there otherwise. That was huge for us on the ecommerce side of things.”
The new Linesheet Creator tool has also been a welcome surprise for the brand. With more sales appointments remote, their sales team can make quick presentations on the fly.
“What we’ve been doing is custom tailoring linesheets for them to streamline the whole selling process,” Cioni says. “Our in-house sales rep knows her customer. Rather than bogging them down with an hour and a half of product that they will never buy, it’s very tailored to exactly what it is she thinks they could be buying.”
With this kind of thinking, it’s obvious that this isn’t Lola & Sophie’s first rodeo. Having survived fashion’s previous downturn more than a decade ago, the team already knew how to adapt to a changing climate. They knew this was the time to take a few risks to remain relevant.
“We’ve certainly stepped up our efforts with advertising and direct mailings,” Kagan says. “We sent out a catalog at the end of 2020 to go out to 100,000 consumers.”
Why go the route of ink on paper? In an environment of hours-long Zoom meetings and social media scrolling, the opportunity of looking at a physical piece of branding makes for a better connection with Lola & Sophie’s target customers.
“It feels more real than an ad on Instagram or Facebook,” Kagan says. “Our target audience still likes to touch and feel the product before they commit.”
The pandemic has changed a lot of things, but some things, like the fashion industry’s resiliency, prove stronger than ever.
“We’re a creative bunch,” Kagan says. “Give us a challenge and we’ll meet it.”