With physical trade shows canceled or postponed across the country, the need for meaningful tools that allow brands and vendors to share information on potential products with apparel retailers has never been more essential. As interactions between these parties goes digital, B2B marketplaces are positioning themselves and their apparel retail clients for the post-pandemic world.
Faire, which has seen a 50 percent increase in the demand for apparel on its platform since April, has launched new updates designed to help retailers make more informed and risk-free purchasing decisions based on a high level of product detail. These updates include adding functionality for size charts, fabrication and care instructions and seasonality.
With many of its retail clients having less than three months of cash on hand in March, Faire sought to build out its community as a support system for brands and retailers alike so that they could assist them in adapting their business to the COVID era. According to Faire’s June survey, 80 percent of retailers using the platform are now offering curbside pickup (reportedly in “single digits” prior to the pandemic) and 38 percent say they are offering personal shopping appointments in their reopened stores, while 68 percent have made new investments in their online business.
“Our business exists to connect retailers and brands, so we’re constantly getting feedback from them on what they want to see,” said Lauren Cooks Levitan, chief financial officer of Faire. “A lot of the new features we build out come directly from requests from our brands and retailers. The majority of our business comes from brands referring retailers to come to the platform and retailers referring brands to come to the platform. When they give us product feature ideas, we are all ears.”
Another B2B fashion marketplace, FashionGo, is extending its wholesale business into other media, launching its inaugural “FashionGo Week,” a two-week online trade show running Aug. 24 through Sept. 6. The event is designed to attract target buyers and vendors in the fast fashion and accessories markets, instead of the high-end brands usually associated with fashion weeks. Throughout the event, participating vendors will be able to upload videos to show off their brand, incorporate their brand story, showcase product lookbooks, and highlight new arrivals on their dedicated brand page.
Paul Lee, CEO of FashionGo, told Sourcing Journal that inspiration for the show came as the seasonal calendar began to blur, a trend further accelerated by the pandemic. Citing that retailers and suppliers haven’t been able to meet in person for months like they used to, Lee said retailers cannot risk several months to get their hands on the merchandise without the guarantee of receiving the entire order they placed.
As the seasons start to bleed into each other, buying trends are also slanted further toward the current season, pressuring retailers to focus on merchandise they can receive within a couple of weeks to sell immediately, according to Lee.
“The industry is fueled by shoppers with a ‘buy now, wear now’ mentality, so stocking relevant in-season merchandise for retailers with a bigger sell-through now is critical,” said Lee. “FashionGo, through FashionGo Week, will allow retailers and vendors to instantly connect with the in-season’s newest arrivals and keep their finger on the pulse of what’s trending given the platform’s emphasis on in-stock merchandise that offers more than 1 million styles.”
Faire’s Levitan agrees with this “buy now, wear now” sentiment, adding that apparel retailers on the platform have largely been looking to buy closer to need and get better information on what consumers are currently focusing on.
“Things have changed so dramatically over the last several months that they are fearful of making decisions too far out,” Levitan said. “Masks are a great example of that. It wasn’t even a category that existed a few months ago. Now it’s a meaningful part of their assortment. If they had made too many inventory commitments before they had a sense of that, they would be missing out.”
Levitan noted that protective face masks now actually make up 10 percent of Faire’s total gross merchandise value (GMV) and have been the top online search term during the pandemic.
While Faire hasn’t launched an official trade show yet, it did release new tools this month to address the impact of trade show cancellations during the pandemic. One such feature was virtual brand page showrooms, enabling retailers to view entire wholesaler catalogs in an online showroom—including collections, pre-orders, pre-packs and pre-recorded video. Brands can customize their pages to showcase new products, best sellers and merchandising tips for retailers. Additionally, the showrooms offers live 1:1 appointments where brands can invite retailers to walk through products and merchandising options.
Both companies rely on data to power the relationships built between brands and retailers. Levitan described the excess of data as a major value proposition for Faire, helping the marketplace suggest products for retailers that the company expects will not be returned.
“That’s the beauty of marketplaces,” Levitan said. “We have tens of thousands of retailers and over 10,000 brands. Every transaction gives us additional information that goes back into those models, which means it just gets richer and better every day in recommending what products to sell, and in what environment.”
And FashionGo offers its 420,000 retailers statistical insight into 1,200 brands, current trends, real-time bestsellers and newly released styles that can also inform purchasing decisions. The company also offers a Style Match+ visual search tool that enables retailers to search for products from anywhere on the web and locate similar styles on FashionGo for purchase.
“Retailers can use this tool to expedite their search to purchase—cutting down on the burden and time that comes with sourcing the right product,” Lee said. “Retailers can compare directly without having to go onto each brand’s page to search for items, though they do have the option to search by item or brand. It makes it easier than ever to make more informed buying decisions and also significantly saves time.”
Aside from Lee, who will introduce FashionGo Week, speakers at the event so far include Lauren Parker, founder of Lauren Parker Creative Media, Jeanel Alvarado, CEO and founder of consultancy Retail Boss and Syama Meagher, CEO and founder of consultancy Scaling Retail. Additionally, more than 20 undisclosed brands are set to speak throughout the show on topics such as denim, outerwear, men’s wear, accessories and new brands.