A growing number of consumers coping with the current financial downturn are turning to buy now pay later (BNPL) offerings that allow them to pay for everything from essential groceries to luxury expenses in installments. Recent research shows that almost one-third of customers in the U.S. have BNPL accounts, and the trend is gaining popularity around the world.
This growth is creating opportunities for numerous retailers, including BlackCool & Co., a lifestyle brand that offers apparel, accessories and fragrances as well as spirits and hand-rolled cigars. BlackCool’s sales have skyrocketed 600 percent since it launched its BNPL plans several months ago, said Rocky D. Williform, founder and CEO of the three-year-old Atlanta-based company.
“I think this is similar to people having a Neiman Marcus card, a Nordstrom card or a Macy’s card,” Williform explained. “But with BNPL you can go to any retailer, choose your product and pay over time with no credit check.”
He said BNPL solutions can give customers peace of mind and better control of their finances by allowing them to pay in installments. Such offerings are particularly valuable to consumers who are stretching their dollars to cover costs during the pandemic.
Registering And Extending Brand Appeal
Williform said he conceived BlackCool as a brand inspired by the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s that brings about a positive change for Black culture. It currently sells its products online and at eight pop-up retail shops, but it plans to open six boutiques, starting with an Atlanta location in December that will also offer BNPL options. The company plans to open other locations in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City and Philadelphia.
BNPL can help brands more easily and successfully bring their offerings to multiple outlets, Williform said. BlackCool is placing products in third-party boutiques over the next several months: Approximately 30 locations have applied to sell the company’s merchandise in their stores.
“I’m sure some of these respective retailers already have BNPL,” he said. “For those that don’t, we will share our experience with them and encourage them to adopt BNPL to increase their sales.”
BlackCool is selling a Black Is Good T-shirt this year to commemorate the Harlem Renaissance’s centennial. Williform said customers who prefer not to pay in full can buy the $50 T-shirt in four interest-free payments using BNPL payment solutions, and part of the proceeds will go toward the creation of a nonprofit dedicated to promoting Black cultural positivity.
BNPL Expands Demographic Reach
Installment payment offerings can help brands boost their reach to a broader range of consumers as well, Williform said, including those who might not otherwise be willing to purchase higher-priced items. Such arrangements have found success in the fashion world and are quickly spreading to many other retail areas.
“We have been able to bring in different demographics, including price-conscious consumers who may think our premium products are priced beyond their reach,” Williform said. “BNPL introduces BlackCool to this demographic, thus allowing them to acquire our products and, unlike layaway, immediately take possession. This is a win-win.”
BNPL member companies can benefit from effective marketing initiatives organized by their payment providers, too. BlackCool’s BNPL partners, for example, offered promotions to the business as well as other Black-owned firms to help them bolster their marketing efforts. Williform said this push occurred at the height of recent racial justice movements, which created awareness for his company and others.
The BNPL model can also appeal to businesses because many providers charge modest fees compared to the higher profit margins that some general retailers apply. BlackCool’s arrangement allows it to ship out its products immediately and receive full payment the next day, minus a small fee, Williform noted.
“They are marketing, [but] we are shipping, and we have a relationship with the customers. It’s not a third-party arrangement,” he said. “This gives us access to email and direct contact with the customer — much better, in my opinion, than going to traditional retail.”
BlackCool and other businesses are working to elevate their brands and extend their appeal even as many potential customers buckle down on their finances and curb their spending during the pandemic. Offering flexible payment options, including BNPL offerings, can help them meet consumers’ needs and ease shoppers’ cost concerns.