Showpo, the Sydney-based online fashion store catering to women 16-40 years old, is looking to make a larger splash in the U.S. market.
Showpo started out outfitting “the party girl,” but has since grown to include workwear, activewear, swim, accessories, beauty and occasion dressing. The company manufactures 30 percent of its inventory in China and buys 70 percent from wholesalers. But the brand names aren’t well-known, said Jane Lu, chief executive officer and founder of Showpo, on a recent visit to New York.
The 32-year-old Lu, who was born in Beijing but grew up in Sydney, started her career in corporate finance at Ernst & Young, but had a change of heart and decided to go the entrepreneurial route. After a failed retail business attempt (“I lost all my money in my first business,” she said.), she launched Showpo out of her parents’ garage. With her savvy social media sense, she was able to build her brand very quickly. The company’s Facebook and Instagram accounts have over 1 million followers each.
Lu said the site has been experiencing high double-digit growth the last few years and has been doing well with affordable occasion wear, festival wear and fashionable workwear. The company has seen strong U.S. growth.
According to Lu, between 150 and 200 new arrivals go up on the site each week. The idea behind the web site is to align with occasions, such as U.S. festival season, or U.S. prom season, or Australian festival season or Australian formal season. She has won several awards such as Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia; Online Retail Industry Awards’ Online Retailer of the Year; a number-six ranking for Business Insider’s 100 coolest people in Australian tech; Women in International Business Award, and Girlboss Entrepreneur of the Year at Cosmopolitan AU.
Some 60 percent of Showpo’s business is generated by the Australian market and 30 percent is garnered by the U.S. market. The remaining 10 percent comes from such countries as Canada, New Zealand and Germany. Overall, Showpo sells to more than 80 countries.
Lu said her goal for the U.S. market is for it to account for 50 percent of its business by next May. The site has a blog and creates original content. Current posts include “14 Mean Girl Quotes That Prove It’s the Best Movie Ever,” “Easy Special Effects Halloween Makeup and “The Best 10 Same-Sex Couples to Follow on Instagram.”
Lu noted that there’s a separate web site for the U.S. that differs from the Australian one; as it has prices in U.S. currency, customers can return products to the U.S. distribution center in Los Angeles, there’s 24-7 customer service and it features U.S. influencers. The site caters to sizes 0 to 16. On the U.S. site, the majority of the apparel retails from $40 to $70, with outerwear slightly higher. Footwear averages $70 with some boots retailing for more than $100.
Lu said she has no plans to take the company public and it’s self-financed.
Her goals for the business are international expansion, especially in the U.S.; improve influencer strategy with more organic social posts; develop a marketplace, which would welcome other brands on the site, and launch additional apparel categories. The company has 90 employees, 70 of whom work in the Australian market and 20 people overseas.
Down the road, Showpo is considering pop-up shops, particularly near the festivals such as Coachella, and other ways to raise visibility during these events.
Lu said what sets her apart in Australia “is being very connected.” She said the site is very disruptive in the Australian market and speaks directly to the Millennial customer. “We’re not just doing it for the revenue, we’re having fun with the business. That’s what people love about us,” she said. She talked about how she is very candid with the site’s followers and will talk about highs and lows. She recently took to social media to discuss some shipping issues the business had been facing in the spring.
“I did a public apology video,” she said. On the video, she described a situation in Australia where they didn’t resource adequately in terms of staffing and had a glitch with their coupon code during the Easter sale period, and had some issues with their third-party warehouse getting their orders out on time and with processing returns. She said with these things, she tries to be proactive. The video went viral.
Lu said she’ll be speaking next week at the Retail Global conference in Las Vegas and at Shoptalk in March.