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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