Lulu’s had e-tailing down before any of the buzzy e-commerce brands on the Internet even existed.
Yet the company’s online boutique — stocked with party, office and boho looks retailing for under $100 — has flown largely under the radar when it comes to press, while still amassing a loyal customer base that’s grown up with the company.
“It’s been a really good year for us,” said cofounder Colleen Winter. “We’ve really built our Lulu’s brand and so that’s the bulk of our sales.”
Now the Chico, Calif.-based e-tailer is sharpening its toolbox, having made key executive hires in more recent months, including today’s addition of vice president of marketing Noelle Sadler. She joins from MAC Cosmetics. Her hire follows the appointments of Craig Dumstorff, vp of technology, and chief financial officer Mark Sargent.
The company counts more than 250 workers in its Northern California headquarters and also buying offices in Los Angeles.
The executive hires follow last year’s private equity infusion, which Winter declined to provide details of other than to say the new partners have helped the company identify a plan to scale the business.
The company is also tight-lipped on its financial performance, other than disclosing sales were up about 80 percent in the first seven months of the year compared to the year prior.
She said that’s been driven by word of mouth. But then there’s also the company’s push into growing its Lulu’s-branded product, which is viewed as a way to keep the pulse on what the company’s customers want.
“If you aren’t open to shifts in consumer demand and being able to evolve quickly, your business model will fail,” Winter said. “We truly like to be direct-to-consumer from the initial inspiration to actual production.”
The story of Lulu’s runs counter to most of the e-tail and omnichannel stories today.
Winter started the business with her mother as a physical store in 1996. The company’s start in Chico is very much a college town and that was the target customer in the beginning. The company catered to college-age girls looking for pieces to wear out at night. The core shopper has now graduated from college but, Winter said, she likely doesn’t have children or a house payment yet and so still has plenty of disposable income.
“She’s evolved completely throughout the years,” Winter said of the customer base. “Of course, she’s going to evolve every single season, but there’s a difference between who we were when we started to who we are today and we still have plans to evolve her while still maintaining our core customer.”
In 2005, the two saw the writing on the wall when it came to not only the direction of retail, but the potential online had in expanding beyond Chico. That year they decided to go online only.
“We’re from a small town, so for us it was about reaching far more people. It was a no-brainer. The numbers were online,” she said.
The company has since perfected what Winter described as a curated selection of affordable chic, with dresses being a top seller. More than half of the company’s overall sales are from the Lulu’s label. The company also sells apparel, footwear and accessories from brands such as Amuse Society, Black Swan, BB Dakota, Lovers + Friends and Seychelles.
For now, the goal is to keep moving forward.
“We feel like we’re in a wonderful spot and continuing the [brand] evolution,” Winter said. “Spring [‘16] is looking great for us now that we’re doing so much private label, we can get exactly what we want for our girl.”