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James Thomson is the editor of BRW. Previously he was editor and publisher of SmartCompany and a senior editor at Business Spectator. He writes regularly on Australia's wealthiest entrepreneurs and has deep expertise in small business and the mid market.

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How social media helped us build a $10m fashion business: Princess Polly

Published 05 December 2013 15:21, Updated 08 December 2013 16:03

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How social media helped us build a $10m fashion business: Princess Polly

Wez and Eirin Bryett began with one Princess Polly store in Brisbane.

Wez Bryett happily admits that understanding the fashion whims of women aged between 16-26 years isn’t exactly his strong suit.

But the digital expert, who launched the digital arm of fashion retailer Princess Polly in 2010 with his wife Eirin, clearly has a good understanding of e-commerce. The business is turning over more than $10 million online, plus nine retail stores (including some franchises).

And now it’s taking the next step by launching its own fashion label in one of the toughest markets in retail.

Princess Polly started as one of Bryett’s clients, but he and his wife noticed the loyal customer base the business had built in Brisbane – at that stage, it only had one store – and decided to take a chance. Eirin sold her pet accessories business and a week later they were away.

“We just saw a good opportunity. It had this huge following, a real cult-like, niche following. And the girls were asking, ‘can we buy this online?’

“There was a small customer base in Brisbane, but we took it nationally online very quickly and that was mainly through Facebook.”

Instagram trumps Facebook

Bryett says Princess Polly focused initially on its own Facebook page before supplementing this with paid Facebook advertising.

But he now says the social media mix of his customers is changing. As other commentators have argued, Facebook appears to be losing popularity amongst teens, and Bryett says Instagram is one the rise.

“Instagram is getting a lot more traction. It’s just a great creative outlet.” he says. “Girls are still using Facebook, but they are using a variety of social media platforms now.”

Princess Polly posts regularly across social media and, like many fashion brands, has worked hard to ensure it’s photography is of a high quality. The site is particularly clean, with a good deal of white space. “We want to keep it clean so we make our product pop. Our range is very colourful.”

Social media is also important as a market research tool. To meet the challenge of fast fashion brands such as Zara and Topshop, which famously turn over their ranges every few weeks, Bryett says the company adds as many as 80 styles a week.

As a new garment gets shown off on social media, the Princess Polly team get rapid feedback on whether their community will embrace a product.

‘Girls do love a sale’

Other strategies used by the company to build sales have been free express shipping on every item and the selective use of sales. For example, Princess Polly took part in Click Frenzy, paying about $1000 to be part of the promotion. Bryett says sales on the day were $100,000.

“I think Click Frenzy is becoming an online shopping event on its own. There was a lot of our existing shoppers jumping on that. We are a full priced retailer, we don’t want to be sale-driven retailer. But girls do love a sale.”

The next challenge for the business is getting its own label off the ground. Bryett says the team, which has expanded to include an in-house designer, will offer a few different lines a week.

Byrett says that having built size and scale, the time is right to start manufacturing. This will particularly help Princess Polly add exclusive lines to its range, a key in any fashion business.

But while the business will expand through its new label, don’t expect to see any more bricks and mortar stores added.

“It’s not something that we want to expand out at the moment.”

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