What’s more fashionable than efficiency? Yet, until recently, it wasn’t a trend the luxury fashion market had really tried on.
Kristin Savilia, CEO of the digital wholesale fashion marketplace JOOR, remembers working as a buyer for Macy’s in the 1990s. She remembers making poster boards with cutouts of the styles she liked. She remembers going to brand showrooms and collecting physical “line sheets” at each one, which were used to take notes and indicate which items a buyer would like to stock at their store. She remembers handing a stack of those to her assistant to enter into the system after a showroom event. She remembers making duplicate orders by accident because there was just so much to look at.
It wasn’t that Macy’s had a worse system than anyone else. Those were the analog days. In 1999, sure the internet existed and PCs were becoming more commonplace in homes and businesses, but most of the world had yet to figure out just how big computing technology would become — how it would simplify (and, at times, complicate) their lives.
The 1990s are long gone, but in this week’s Matchmaker Is In conversation, Savilia told Karen Webster that the archaic fashion-buying process lived on for another decade and then some.
JOOR set out to change that when its brand application launched in 2010. That tool has evolved over the years to serve not only brands, but retailers. Today, it’s connecting high-end fashion brands like Michael Kors and Kate Spade with the retailers who carry them (and vice versa).
Savilia said the point of JOOR isn’t to take the buying process entirely online, but to streamline it by giving buyers the tools to prepare ahead of time so they only spend their time visiting showrooms of brands that fit with their store. And, of course, to eliminate all those paper line sheets. To quote Savilia, “So. Many. Line sheets.”
The State of Retail
Webster, a bit of a fashion aficionado herself, said the problem with brick-and-mortar retail today is that every store looks the same.
“They all carry the same designers,” she complained.
If the prophets are right, however, that’s not what’s going to kill physical retail. Most of the world has resigned itself to the fact that, sooner or later, retail will be completely dominated by a single company operating almost entirely online. Even if Amazon doesn’t monopolize the entire market, the general prediction is that eCommerce and physical retail simply can’t survive in the same universe.
Savilia believes that eCommerce is leading retail — not destroying it, as many believe. She said that JOOR serves an equal number of online and offline players, because no matter the avenue, retailers all want the same things: streamlining, expedited sales and insights that can reveal whether they missed a “buy” opportunity and if so, why.
“Retail is shifting, not dying,” Savilia told Webster. “I’m a believer in brick and mortar; I think it’s here to stay, albeit with a smaller footprint, and with online influencing most of the decision making.”
Who’s Leading Whom?
At first, said Savilia, brands were pulling retailers onto JOOR’s platform; now it’s the other way around, with retailers urging their brands to get on JOOR so they can do all their buying in one place.
Even SMBs play an important role in the marketplace. There’s a discovery element for up-and-coming designers to get noticed (after initial vetting by JOOR) and to connect with smaller boutiques to get started.
“They’re often early readers of trends,” Savilia said. “Boutiques buy smaller quantities, but those trends can bubble up to the bigger retailers.”
Savilia believes both sides of the fashion retail equation have recognized the potential for streamlining — a potential that grows every time a new player migrates to the platform, saving buyers one more paper line sheet and brands a whole lot of photocopies.
Gaze Into the Crystal Ball
What’s coming in the world of retail, and what role will JOOR play in that future? Savilia’s not pulling any punches about her plans.
“I plan for JOOR to be the de facto platform for brands and retailers to do buying,” she said.
Part of making that happen, Savilia said, will be making the integration process turnkey, since many retailers don’t have the resources to build and integrate complex technology. Another key will be working with the inventory management providers that brands are working with, so the providers can carry the bulk of the tech rollout load rather than brands having to do that work.
At the same time, Savilia doesn’t want to limit the platform to high fashion. JOOR has already made inroads in menswear, accessories and home goods and hopes to continue expanding to other settings where visual assortment planning is an important part of business.
From there, Savilia plans to dive into data and insights — because, again, the more brands and retailers on the platform, the more valuable it becomes. If her vision becomes reality and JOOR really does become the go-to buying platform, then it will have more data than anyone else in the industry, and that’s something retailers will want to see and leverage.
Savilia’s final prediction is this: Next season’s racks will see a lot more streetwear, skate wear and, for some reason she can’t quite fathom, see-through raincoats. That’s fashion for you. It’s always changing.