ChannelAdvisor Catalyst: Lingerie Outlet Store
At the opening keynote at ChannelAdvisor Catalyst I ended up sitting next to a couple of retailers from Swindon. Having once had a warehouse in Swindon we got chatting with Clare Haines and Melissa Burton from Lingerie Outlet Store.
Clare started the business nine years ago and wanted a job where she could work around her son. When Woolworths went bust, Clare purchased a load of stock from the liquidator and started selling on eBay. She started buying toys from clearance companies which was successful but not profitable so went back to basics.
Picking up the Yellow Pages, Clare searched for manufacturers in Swindon and Triumph popped up. Clare rang them and asked if they had clearance stock and spoke to the sales director who said yes, but refused to sell to her citing brand protection.
Clare wouldn’t take no for an answer and hounded him on the phone – nagged him she says – until after three months he eventually caved and said yes, but only ‘If you place an order for £15,000’. Having just sold her house, she had the money and called his bluff… that did wipe out her deposit for her next house and then a delivery truck turned up with box after box of bras and knickers. The hall, spare bedrooms, dining room, conservatory and even the front room bay window were filled with stock.
The first bra listed was a 38D red luxury Triumph Desire bra which sold for £15.99 in just a quarter of an hour. Having paid just £5 for it, the business model was proven and the risk paid off.
Melissa joined the business 6 years in, after it had moved to a small premises and then a larger warehouse. The two had always been friends and Melissa had helped out a few times and then got made redundant at a time the business had grown so big it was starting to get out of hand. Melissa has a background in finance and operations and streamlined the operations, implemented ChannelAdvisor, and robust business processes. Clare has the ideas and Melissa puts them into operation. Since then they’ve grown the business 2000% through sheer hard work.
Today the business sells on eBay, Amazon and their own website, the majority of sales are in the UK but they also sell to the US, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Poland and anywhere else that orders happen to come in from.
For the future they’re planning a rebrand to One Stop Lingerie with a new website coming soon. When Melissa joined the company, with her ability in operations, she’s implemented ChannelAdvisor, revolutionised the business and taken it from something that’s amateur to a completely professional operation with a solid business plan and cash flow forecasting for the future.
Clare is now free to do what she does best, which is to source great stock to fill the 7,000 square foot warehouse. That with 23 staff is now getting to small so a new warehouse which will be 18,000 square feet. With the streamlining of operations and software, they can afford to lose four staff, but they won’t be laying anyone off. The plan is to carry on growing the business to keep the staff busy.
I love this business because it reminds me of how so many of the marketplace sellers I’ve met over the years started. It’s a typical kitchen table start up that’s evolved into a proper grown up business purely from the hard graft Clare and Melissa have put in. If they can do it, anyone can.
Last accounts filed for this business is showing a loss of £6,000.00
2000% increase sounds good until you actually look at the company figures.
Coming from an accounting background myself someone is either playing with the company figures, or making this out to be much bigger than it is.
A piddling amount…. look at how many years Amazon failed to make a profit and how much their shareholders love them ;-)
That’s not my reading of the published accounts, although I don’t have the benefit of a background in accounting that you do.
I’d have said the the year to end of 2015 showed an increase in the shareholders funds from -33,524 to -6,844, which would mean a profit in the year of 26,680. Although possibly what might be confusing is the fact that the 2014 accounts show a very different position when they were filed compared with their restatement when used as a comparison in the 2015 accounts.