Some of the fastest-growing brands are still relatively unknown, and Consensus Advisors hopes to change that with its annual conference.
On Wednesday, Consensus held its 6th Next Great Consumer Showcase, hosted by Nasdaq MarketSite in Manhattan and sponsored by Wells Fargo Capital Finance. The all-day event included keynotes from Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, Ascena Retail Group president and chief executive officer David Jaffe and the doyenne of all things home related, Martha Stewart.
Among the highlights from Wilson’s conversation with Consensus ceo Michael O’Hara:
Wilson’s first company was Westbeach Snowboard Ltd. He said that back then, he “didn’t know anything about margin. I [kept] making more apparel. It was so easy,” noting how that became a new business model now referred to as a vertical retailer.
Wilson got into athleticwear because he was a competitive swimmer and knew the competitive sports business: “I was working with Lycra. I understood how it worked in athletics. I listened to the girls talk about fit on the top of the garment and how their arms moved.”
At one point in his career, he hired experienced people with a wholesale background, and he said that was a mistake: “Successful people come in and think they are successful for a reason, and they don’t fully take on the [company] culture….They feel they know everything.”
Key points from Jaffe’s presentation included:
“Mall traffic is down. There is a problem. We run campaigns that create a greater company awareness to drive in the store traffic.”
“Amazon says they can do same-day shipping. I say I have 5,000 fulfillment centers. They’re called stores.”
“We’d like to pay down our debt, strengthen our balance sheet and get all the Ann Taylor integration done before doing any more acquisitions.”
“Flat is the new up in apparel sales.”
In Stewart’s keynote, she said her first foray to a physical store is opening the Martha Stewart Café featuring coffee, tea and baked goods at the Starrett-Lehigh building at 601 West 26th Street, where her office is located. She said her dream is to own a Martha Stewart store that sells all her products. Stewart also noted that while newsstand sales of magazines are down, her magazine has kept a steady two million subscribers.
The brands that pitched to possible investors and lenders aren’t necessarily the typical early-stage start-ups. A few have been around for some time, but occupy a specialized niche and are leveraging their brand equity to grow their presence in other categories — hence the need for financing to add to its capital structure for growth.
The companies that presented include: footwear firm Pixar Canada; lingerie e-commerce start-up Adore Me; high-performance outdoor apparel firm Marolina Outdoor; technical apparel firm Kit and Ace; made-to-measure men’s wear brand Indochino; bootmaker Lucchese; yoga-inspire athletic apparel firm Yogasmoga; men’s shorts firm Chubbies; contemporary women’s fashion boutique firm Bevello, and digital lifestyle brand ModCloth.