Deborah Nicodemus

Moda Operandi may be an innovative online proposition, but that hasn’t stopped it from pursuing some old-fashioned ways of working — and from taking fashion at a slower pace.

Deborah Nicodemus, chief executive officer of the five-year-old fashion site, said her customer is a planner rather than an impulse buyer, and in an ever fast-paced world she’s more than happy to wait three to five months for her trunk show purchases.

The consumer is also “highly elite,” according to Nicodemus, who added the average order value at Moda is close to $2,000, with purchases totaling up to $182,000 in a single order.

Nicodemus said Moda knows its customer well, and is coming up with new ways to cater to her. In two months’ time it will launch a new app, a “significant” upgrade from the existing one that will offer personalized service to clients.

“It gives her an opportunity to chat with a stylist — and it’s not always about a transaction. The stylist will help her to put together what her look is going to be for an upcoming event. She’ll be doing that literally through the client’s closet.”

Nicodemus said she believes technology will be driving service going forward and that the challenge is to balance “high-tech” with “high-touch” because, to her, “there is nothing like engaging with a client one-on-one.”

To wit, Moda is building out its showroom business with plans to expand its network of brick-and-mortar showrooms, with the next opening in Dubai. There are already Moda showrooms in London and New York.

“Our showrooms follow the same business model as the trunk show because there is no inventory, and each appointment is invitation only, curated specifically for that client. It takes us about seven days to curate it for her.”  Courtesy Photo

Nicodemus said the maximum number of clients that Moda invites to its showrooms is 400, on an annual basis. “The only way to understand your client to have in one-on-one engagement with her. That’s what we have found out. So the retail space is a valuable one.”

The showroom space also offers personalization services that range from product monogramming to made-to-measure to full commissions.

In another old-style twist to the business, Nicodemus is also pushing a final-sale strategy, encouraging the customer to commit early, especially to big-ticket purchases.

“I was really tired of the returns business, and I want to run a profitable business,” said Nicodemus, who in the past has worked at Donna Karan, Birks & Meyers and Whitehall Jewelers. As a result, she’s been striving to make as many sales as possible final.

“If you’re going to buy a fur that is $5,000 to $50,000, then it’s not returnable. We are not furriers. If it’s a piece of jewelry that is $1,000 to $10,000, that’s not returnable either,” she said.

“I don’t want to attract a discount client, and I know the window of selling has been squeezed, so when we sell something on sale, it’s final.” She said 30 percent of the overall business is now final sale.

Looking ahead, Nicodemus said Moda is planning for a surge in Millennial customers and is already planning to cater to their needs.

“By 2020, more than 50 percent of the workforce population will be Millennial and we really need to understand what it is they want, and what they are interested in. We know that they want to have an intimate relationship with the retailer, that they want to participate and have a meaningful experience.”

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