Berlin-based fashion retailer Lesara prides itself on thinking differently about apparel and being on trend. It doesn’t send its designers to Fashion Week and it draws its conclusions about what consumers want from the data that they see.
It calls its approach “agile retail” and it believes something different about who should set the course when it comes to deciding what is “in.” Consumers are the ultimate arbiters of style — not a few designers sitting in a few fashion houses around the world.
Agile retail is a model that will free us from time-consuming fashion shows. In agile retail, trends are set by customers, instead of a handful of fashion designers, all thanks to big data.
“For our industry, the most important innovation of the last decade has been ‘fast fashion’ — that’s the model introduced by companies like H&M,” Lesara CEO Roman Kirsch noted. “In a way, agile retail is the smarter and faster brother of fast fashion. Traditional fast fashion companies are not fully in control of their supply chains the way Lesara is. They deal with long lead times, various middlemen and high stock, which makes them expensive and time-consuming.”
Kirsch has been an entrepreneur his whole life. He told the The Next Web that he got his start in fashion retail at the age of 13 when he started a business importing cloaks from China.
And, according to Kirsch, Lesara’s two singular contributions to the fashion retail market are its ability to leverage data sets to spot the latest trends as they are emerging, and a sufficiently controlled and streamlined supply chain that can then take those insights and move them into the market almost immediately. On average, fast fashion companies need two to three months to roll out new product lines to their stores. Lesara on the other hand, can begin rolling out new goods in 10 days.
By going “on-demand” for apparel, Lesara makes sure that what it’s offering to its consumers is what consumers actually want. That tends to boost sales, and more importantly, it also means Lesara rarely deals with excess inventory and doesn’t often have to mark items down to move them out the door.
And move items out the door it does. In 2016, Lesara saw a 175 percent increase in revenue with over 1.5 million active customers across Europe. The firm currently offers access to over 100,000 fashion and lifestyle products and is able to add roughly 2,000 styles to the line-up each week. For many fashion retailers, that is the equivalent of a seasonal collection.
However, being fast has a cost, and, as of yet, Lesara is not profitably (though it is well funded). In 2016, the company’s loss amounted to 14 million euros, and while there are not updated figures for 2017, the expectation is that it has continued to lose money as it invests in growth.
Which, according to Kirsch, means Lesara is currently leveling up its services offering as it attempts to make the shopping experience stickier for their customers.
“High on the priority list is to improve our personalized shopping experience, and to fine-tune the technology to make even better personal shopping recommendations and suggestions to our customers. An important aspect of this is the mobile shopping experience and especially our Lesara shopping app,” Kirsch said.
He also noted that the firm is always on the hunt for new — and better — data sources as it attempts to keep up with consumer desires and where trend lines are heading. Currently, the firm uses its own web traffic, social media, search engine trends, and other sources that are its “private secrets” to run down what has potential to sell, and what it can design, create and ship to customers.
It's a very different pace of retail, and one that is incredibly quick, and therefore risky. The data always has to be good, because they act so quickly on it. But given the choice between this and building an entire product line around a yearly event like fashion week, customers have made their preferences known, and Lesara has the data to prove it.