Bandier bets on exclusives, bloggers to grow activewear business
The activewear market shows no signs of slowing down — and Bandier wants to capitalize on the craze. The retailer which raised $4.5 million in funding from Simon Ventures and friends and family last year, according to Neil Boyarsky, Bandier’s chief executive officer, is in the midst of raising another round. The additional capital, he said, will enable for company to both scale a fast-growing e-commerce business and open stores in key markets.
An industry source said the brand is on track to do $20 million at retail in 2017, the retailer’s second full year in business, with sales split almost evenly between dot-com and in-store. E-commerce commands 45 percent of overall sales, up from 20 percent last year, Boyarsky said. In a year from now, though, he expects the ratio to flip, with bandier.com driving 55 percent of the business and the rest coming from freestanding stores.
With a network of five doors — four in New York and one in Dallas — Boyarsky is ready to take on the West Coast. Los Angeles is the next city on tap for Bandier, he said, where a flagship will open by year’s end.
“It’s not that we think stores are unimportant.…We think about our business growing through the web and letting that inform where we open stores. That to us is an indication of where we should open,” the ceo explained, noting that while the web site remains the priority, simultaneously expanding Bandier’s physical footprint in areas driving high e-commerce volume is a close second. Such was the case with California, where web business went from 5 percent of total e-commerce sales to 16 percent.
But today, it’s becoming harder to gain market share in the activewear sector as players are increasingly carrying many of the same brands. Vying for that consumer is key — especially through social media and digital marketing — but differentiating through product offering remains a priority.
“From the beginning, it’s always been about product for us.…We started with exclusives…and because we were early on the trend, developing the relationships with the brand partners that we have [now] was easier for us to do because there wasn’t that level of competition. We were able to ask for exclusivity to certain products, and that’s only grown,” Boyarsky said.
Today, close to 50 percent of the more than 40 brands carried at Bandier have elements of their range that are exclusive to the retailer.
For instance, Bandier worked closely with luxe brand Ultracor — where bottoms typically retail for around $200 — to tweak their popular star-printed leggings. A $196 version with a higher waist and no center seam was produced in five colorways and, according to Boyarsky, the single style sold out and drove $200,000 in sales in one month. There is a lengthy waiting list for a second delivery.
“We had no idea what the true demand was behind product that we were selling. Just recently having added a wait list functionality now informs our buys because we can buy more accurately. A lot of it was born out of doing these collaborations. We didn’t know how much business we were missing,” he said.
Bandier’s success also might have something to do with maintaining its positioning as a multibrand retailer — versus trying to become its own activewear brand.
Instead of turning to private label the way activewear e-tailer Carbon38 has, Bandier continues to set itself apart through a series of exclusive collaborations with bloggers and fashion brands. Partnerships have spanned limited-edition capsules with Prabal Gurung and Cushnie et Ochs, but the most lucrative — and buzzy — of the retailer’s partnerships have been those created with influencers.
Those who Bandier has teamed with so far include Something Navy’s Arielle Charnas; We Wore What’s Danielle Bernstein; Alexis Ren; A Bikini a Day’s Natasha Oakley and Devin Brugman and “fit-fluencers” Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott of Tone It Up.
And it’s working as a business strategy. Boyarsky revealed that 12 percent of Bandier’s sales come from either collaborations or exclusive product, with the goal of expanding this portion of the business to 20 percent over the next two years.
Last July, 1,000 of Charnas’ fans showed up at Bandier’s Flatiron store in Manhattan to score pieces from her Something Navy x Koral collaboration and meet the 29-year-old influencer. Reportedly, she moved $10,000 worth of product in 90 minutes in-store, and the collection completely sold out online, equating to $100,000 in sales in less than one week. The release of Charnas’ Something Navy x Monrow collection in mid-May yielded a similar response. The range saw 75 percent sell-through online in the first day and sold out of almost half of the collection’s eight styles.