Domestic production, updating the inventory daily, and speed to market is the formula that U.K.-based fashion web site Boohoo.com banks on.
“We are fully vertical. All of our studios are in house, all of our content teams are in house, so it’s just about getting out there, having an enormous team of buyers, nearly 100 of them now out every week,” said Carol Kane, Boohoo.com’s founder and chief executive officer.
The fast-growing e-commerce business, launched in 2006, introduces 500 new products a week on average, sometimes 100 in a day, and has 21,000 items on the site on any given day. It targets to 16- to 24-year-old consumers with on-trend fashion at value prices.
“We are not seasonal buyers. We are buying daily….We are always updated, I think in e-commerce, that is so important because newness and freshness to our consumer, whether they come onto the site daily, weekly or monthly, are expecting to see something completely new. So it’s very very important for us to to have new inventory, a very updated inventory, every single day….We don’t make a week plan. We have a daily plan. We will change things daily if we have to. We are very agile in terms of seasonality. If you take away knitwear, coats and heavy footwear, the rest of it is fashion you can wear all year-round. If you are having a tricky season, be agile. Bring your going-out fashion dresses to the forefront. Because a big part of our business is in the southern hemisphere, we actually running several seasons at once.
“Because we are pure-play, we have no bricks-and-mortar, so it’s very easy for us. We don’t have to run stock. We can buy very, very flat. We really have a crowd sourcing approach, so consumers decide what’s going to sell best. We have a very reactive buying team and sourcing model that allows us to scale up and get repeat orders into the business in a matter of weeks.”
Kane said the company produces more than 50 percent of its product in the U.K. “It’s about speed,” Kane said. “Our lead times are very short, a matter of weeks. We can go from sketch to consumer in four to six weeks by producing in the U.K.
“Obviously margin is lower because we have a more expensive cost base in the U.K. But because of our crowd sourcing approach, your cash margin may be high because we don’t have markdown, so its a win-win bringing a lot of production onshore.” She acknowledged that if the fashion dictated a lot of embellishments such as embroidery and sequins, “we would have to switch more to offshore production to be able to do that. We are pretty flexible.”
She said Boohoo works to have the looks seen on the catwalks translated online as soon as possible and that the ‘see-now-buy-now’ model that Burberry and Tom Ford adopted. “I don’t see that as a threat to pure-play, that retailers will actually adopt that. I think it’s such a challenge. “A lot of the designers are saying we don’t have that infrastructure, we can’t just design something and have it produced the next day. Its very very tough. You got to have big budget to pull that one off.”
She considers Boohoo to be an inclusive brand by offering sizes 4 to 20, and generally, the sales performance is pretty even between a size 4 or 20. “Originally we were always calling it ‘plus.’ Our customers don’t find plus offensive.” Now Boohoo calls plus sizes, “curve.”
“I am a little bit undecided, but I think curve is going to the industry term for the market, we are using both at the moment….It’s our job to have great fashion for all sizes. Maybe we will get to a stage where we drop the definition all together.”