Honey Birdette brings raunch to the US

Honey_Birdette_023The racy lingerie brand that began in Brisbane in 2006 has just launched a dedicated US online store, with plans to open bricks-and-mortar stores in the country by mid-2018.

Before the launch of the new site, American customers shopped from the Australian Honey Birdette online platform, which recently experienced a 374 per cent spike in traffic from US shoppers.

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The newly launched US website offers services such as free delivery for orders over $USD50 and customers can use Future Pay to buy now and pay later for their items. American online shoppers will also benefit from an expanded product range.

Honey Birdette flung the doors open of its first overseas store in Covent Garden in London in September last year. The fourth UK store will open shortly in another London location and the brand is looking at Chelsea for a potential opening in April.

“We want to do 40 stores across the UK and Europe by the end of 2018, in the next 12 to 24 months,” founder and managing director Eloise Monaghan revealed to IRW.

“We really want to bring the [offline experience] to the customer online. That’s the one thing we can improve – the campaigns, products and freshness are all there,” she told IRW.

“Technology and sex don’t really go hand in hand, unfortunately….We are looking at VR and we’re looking at hologram fashion shows and using technology in the Honey Birdette way. Like our in-store ‘press for champagne button’. We can’t pass a glass through the screen, but we need to find ways to make [online] exciting.”

An international view

Since Honey Birdette first expanded overseas, Monaghan has picked up a couple of lessons on international expansion.

“Buy now and pay later is essential. The UK have payment systems like Klarna, we have Afterpay and Zippay here,” she said. “Click-and-collect is massive. We’re looking at RFID technology, so shoppers can pick up their items within three hours so we need complete visibility for staff to check immediate stock levels and it all needs to be integrated online.”

One mistake Honey Birdette made when it first hit the UK was operating its customer service team from Australia.

“We thought we’d initially do customer service from here [in Australia], but there was such heavy traffic from the UK. If you’re a furious customer because you haven’t received a parcel and we’re in Australian hours, it doesn’t work,” said Monaghan.

“You have to be committed to doing it. We think of customer service as a receptionist sitting on the phone – it’s the most essential part of the business.”

“The girls are my number one priority”

Last year, Honey Birdette came under fire when ex-staff members claimed to have experienced sexual harassment and sexism in the workplace.

However, Monaghan described the claims as “white noise” made by people working for other brands and “there was a lot more to it than meets the eye”.

“I’ve got to say, this was a campaign driven by a workers’ union to raise members and it was run by disgruntled former employees. Good luck to them, it went viral and they got followers out of it,” she said.

“We pay well and incentivise heavily. We do expect customers to come first. I pay you and I expect you to be at the store – not to sell your brand inside my store, which was happening. We made it a policy to ignore [the campaign].

“I have a 350-person loyal team on my side – we fly our staff internationally, we have dinners together and in terms of their their safety – if anything happens in their store, I’ve always told them to just walk straight out.”

After the controversy took place, Honey Birdette brought on board employment safety lawyers to conduct an independent assessment of the business’ policies, which were also reviewed by the National Retailers Association. One new initiative which Honey Birdette has launched is a confidential hotline for their staff.

“We’ve recently done audits on our OH&S and part of that is empowering our team members to have that understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable customer behaviour and giving them the confidence to be able to walk away from a conversation that they’re not comfortable with,” explained Bronwyn Bateman, human resources and payroll manager at Honey Birdette.

“No-one protects the girls more than I do, said Monaghan. “The girls are my number one priority. I absolutely adore all of them.”

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