NEW YORK — Moda Operandi is moving forward with plans to further diversify its product offering and expand its network of showrooms.
The expansion comes on the back of continued strong growth. The web site’s sales in the first quarter surpassed the year-earlier period by 65 percent and beat the company’s own plan by 9 percent, said chief executive officer Deborah Nicodemus.
“Our business is on fire,” she boasted, noting strength in all categories and across all regions, with domestic business rising 58 percent in the first quarter and international advancing 83 percent.
The results reaffirm Nicodemus’ strategy of selling a combination of well-known designers and emerging talents; highlighting limited editions, collaborations and exclusive products, and offering one-offs and customizable designs.
The core of Moda’s business is preordered runway looks. Apparel rose 61 percent in the first quarter, while non-apparel sales jumped 84 percent, driven by fine jewelry, which rose 187 percent.
Nicodemus introduced fine jewelry “because it’s the farthest removed from fashion.” A test of the category spanned merchandising, marketing and technology.
“We wanted to offer the same experience as we do for runway shows,” Nicodemus said, adding that she wanted to debunk the long-held assumption that expensive jewelry is difficult to sell online.
Jewelry priced $10,000 and above was tested. “We wanted to see which channel sales were coming from, our stylists or nonstylists,” Nicodemus said. “Does the client choose to buy jewelry on her own even if it’s a final sale? When we hit the mark of non-stylist sales growing faster, we knew we had it right.
“We decided to go full force into nonapparel,” Nicodemus said, adding that Jodi Kaplan, former vice president, divisional merchandise manager for jewelry and watches at Bergdorf Goodman, was hired to lead the area, while Mary Chiam will oversee the apparel side of the business, including bridal and couture.
“With jewelry, we made the same commitment to deliver access to our customers,” Nicodemus said. “The reason she’s coming to us is for our curation and a sense of discovery.”
Fine-jewelry trunk shows follow the same format as runway, except the shows are live for 30 days as opposed to 14 for runway.
Moda will launch 10 fine-jewelry brands in the coming weeks including Alasia and Martin Katz, the Beverly Hills-based designer who’s “able to unleash the beauty of gems.” Katz’ pieces will start at $50,000.
“We’re moving into shoes and handbags,” Nicodemus said. “The core of the business is fashion runway, which leads to a wide berth of opportunity in nonapparel. We expect to see very big things in the second half of the year. We’re defining the brand matrix now. Think exotics and crocs — very high end. We’ll also have evening shoes, special occasion, couture and bridal.”
The shoe business will strike a balance between established and emerging designers.
“We had a stellar fashion week, when 70 percent of our business was apparel,” she said, adding that Givenchy, Lanvin and Dolce & Gabbana were featured. Moda launched Ralph Lauren, which provided one of the site’s bestsellers, a $9,500 shirt dress.
The company added 20 brands in the first quarter, including Manolo Blahnik and Maison Margiela. Johanna Ortiz introduced her first shoe collection, which was exclusive to Moda. “It was a hit,” Nicodemus said.
The average order value at Moda climbed to $1,400 from $1,200 in last year’s first quarter. “The highest rung of price points is driving the sales,” the ceo said. “Our client has a significantly different approach to dressing herself.”
Trunk shows, where merchandise is preordered and delivered later, account for 70 percent of Moda’s sales volume, with the ready-to-wear boutique commanding a 30 percent share.
So confident are Moda clients in their choices, 30 percent of the company’s transactions are final sales.
Moda’s showrooms on Madison Avenue and London’s Grosvenor Crescent Mews are proving valuable as shoppers who visited one spent 74 percent more than online-only clients. Moda will open a showroom in November or December in Dubai, which will be followed by two more showrooms in the Gulf region, with one bowing a year after Dubai is launched.
As reported, Moda plans to open 15 showrooms over the next five years, including locations in Hong Kong and Seoul; New York, California, Miami and Texas; Vancouver; Paris, and Geneva.
Nicodemus doesn’t judge the showrooms’ success by traditional standards, even though they seem to goose sales. “It’s not important how much volume we do inside the showrooms, but that we deepen our relationship with the client,” she said. “We’re not trying to do client acquisition or sales from the showrooms. We want to better understand who she is.”