Shoshanna Gruss’ decision to launch e-commerce came down to a matter of time — as in no time like the present.
“E-commerce is a big undertaking. It’s like opening a store. You want to develop it the right way and do it at the right time. But there never is a good time to, so I said, ‘Let’s just do it.’ So much of our business is online now. I know I only shop online. I don’t have time to get to stores.”
While the designer’s dresses, swimwear, sportswear and girls’ swimwear is sold through major retailers and specialty stores as, well, select Web sites, Gruss will offer the full range via her own Web site. “One of the things a lot of designers feel is that you get very pigeonholed by who your buyer thinks you are — no matter how much new product you show them. I am ‘a dress designer’ but I’ve been doing separates, sweaters and knits for 13 years. And they do really well,” she said. “E-commerce allows us to showcase the line and to really get a feel from customers about what they’re liking and how they’re buying.”
For the first-year out, Gruss expects the site to generate an additional $1.5 million in sales. Last year, her 14-year-old company tallied $21 million in wholesale volume. Selling online will also allow Shoshanna to sell internationally. The brand’s base is mostly in the U.S., save for a few stores in London. “We don’t have a lot of international business but we do have a lot of international interest, especially from Australia and Germany,” she said.
As was the case with starting a label with an array of sizes, offering free ground shipping to shoppers in the U.S. was a way to help make customers’ lives easier, Gruss said. “We want to be helpful. That’s how the company was started. We want to be inclusive and really be your best friend.
“Our growth has been steady and very organic,” she added. “We only get into categories we feel we belong in.” Adding outerwear will be her next pursuit.
With the new site, online shoppers will also get fashion tips from Gruss, as well as links to her favorite style-conscious sites. There will also be a “Get the Look” page for those who want to copy the latest celebrity look. Visitors can also share their favorite Shoshanna looks via Facebook and Twitter.
Having heard her saleswoman Kasey Kahler helping callers track down cocktail dresses for their bridesmaids every day, Gruss said that was yet another reason to get into e-commerce. “We offer such great customer service from our office. I thought, ‘This is so silly. We need to do something now.’”
Known to offer a vast range of sizes, Gruss said her collection lends itself to online shopping. Two-piece swimwear, for example, is sold as separates in 14 different sizes with tops ranging from an A cup to a DDD. Girls’ swimsuits are also in a host of sizes starting at 2T for toddlers and going up to a 14 for preteens or early teens. And while Gruss’ company is in its teens, she has no interest in selling out to a parent company. “I really like what I do. I feel very lucky that way,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to lose that.”