Fashion wholesaler eyes global growth

Australian Fashion Labels, the owner of women’s fashion brands Finders Keepers, Keepsake, C/MEO Collective and The Fifth, and footwear brand Jaggar, is closing its three flagship bricksand-mortar stores in favour of growing its digital vertical retail presence.

“This is about assessing the allocation of and return on capital,” Blake Williams, CEO of AFL, told IRW. “[P]hysical stores are capital hungry and from a small base….require additional resources we believe are best committed to our online business.”

AFL currently operates three bricks-andmortar stores – two in Adelaide, where the company is based, and one in Los Angeles – under the BNKR moniker, but going forward, the company will focus on its online store, fashionbunker.com, which sells into more than 55 countries, shipping from Melbourne and Hong Kong.

This is part of the fashion company’s strategic shift to grow its global business, with a particular focus on the US and China.

Last week, the company announced the launch of its C/MEO Collective brand on Alibaba’s Tmall marketplace, where it has the potential to reach 700 million customers.

Between the Tmall launch and the increased focus on its cross-border BNKR e-commerce business, AFL believes it can double its share of sales in China from 10 per cent of total sales to 20 per cent of total sales by next year.

Prior to this, the company had been distributing its C/MEO Collective, Finders Keepers, Keepsake and The Fifth brands through around 300 bricks-and-mortar stores across greater China in an effort to build awareness in the market.

“We wanted to ensure we had the best chance of success before we made the relatively high-capital investment into retail,” Mei Ping Doery, CEO of AFL China, told IRW.

Doery said it’s important for brands to take a long-term and sustainable approach to growth in such a complex, competitive and sophisticated market as China.

“I think brands need to commit to doing it properly and making sure everything from the product, business model and brand, are localised properly,” she said.

According to Doery, AFL will continue to develop both its wholesale and retail channels in China. It has also invested in online-to-offline solutions that will see its C/MEO Collective store on Tmall driving bricks-and-mortar sales.

In Australia, where AFL brands are distributed through Myer, David Jones and The Iconic, alongside specialty retailers and boutiques, the company is focused on improving its customer proposition, Williams said. In addition to offering great products, it is using data to refine the way it communicates with customers and ensure offers are relevant.

“We are listening to our customers and seeking to develop an enhanced offering in 2019 encompassing both loyalty and returns policy changes – watch this space!”

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