Some companies claim to be lifestyle brands, but Venroy really means it. This male-centric resort wear brand inspired by the Australian beach lifestyle has already made its mark from a wholesale perspective, but the company is ready to connect directly with its loyal shoppers. With the help of a flexible e-commerce platform, Venroy is making this endeavor a reality.
The brainchild of best friends Sean Venturi and Theo Smallbone, Venroy began as nothing more than two high school friends' obsession with board shorts. "Growing up in Australia, collecting board shorts was like collecting baseball cards," quipped Venturi. "Once we graduated from university however, we started to get bored by the styles being designed in Europe and in America. So we started making our own."
The duo designed their ideal pair of shorts, and even went as far as getting a sample pair made. In the summer of 2010, the team approached boutiques across Sydney armed with 60 pair of board shorts and sold them all. Making a mere $5 per pair, the friends had to a decision to make — was this a labor of love or could it be a viable business? With an upcoming trip planned to visit friends in Los Angeles and New York, the duo took some samples along to find out.
Venturi and Smallbone approached Fred Siegel, Barneys New York, Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom, a move that drove merchandise into approximately 100 stores across the United States. Soon, these brands comprised 95 percent of their wholesale business. From there, the team got its merchandise into "the best stores" in Japan, Canada and its home market, Venturi recalled. "By the end of 2014, we had created a home office in L.A. and a strong wholesale presence across department stores, but we were ready to do a better job of controlling our brand and how our customers interacted with it."
This became increasingly clear as wholesale partners began asking for specific designs to fit into their contemporary sportswear categories. "We felt like we weren't creating the designs we really wanted to," he said. "We also wanted more control of the distribution of our product."
It was a concern that prompted the pair to "pull out of wholesale, pack up our L.A. offices, move back home with our parents, and start from scratch," joked Venturi. "We lost 95 percent of our business, but we knew we needed to make a fresh start."
With that, the friends got back to their roots, and began designing shorts based on their passion: the beach. "In Australia, we know the beach and take leisure seriously," he said.
"We wanted to build our brand around leisure and how we grew up in the summertime — you spent the day and had lunch at the beach, then headed out to the bar at night in the same shorts — you just threw on a casual shirt," Venturi said. "Making this lifestyle available through a larger offering has had a strong reaction from customers."
In its quest to reach even more shoppers, Venturi and Smallbone set their sights on e-commerce and mobility to drive consumer purchases. Giving shoppers an instant way to access the brand allows them to have a small taste of the true Australian beach lifestyle.
"To us, we are a relevant digital brand, especially for mobile. Smart devices give a sense of escapism and so does our brand," he said. "People have such crazy lives, so if they can even spend three minutes browsing the site while traveling the subway on the way into work, they have a way to plan for their next vacation that may be coming up."
To make this vision a reality, the pair adopted Magento 2.0, an open source digital commerce platform from Magento Commerce. The platform is flexible enough for pals to quickly and costeffectively deliver engaging omnichannel shopping experiences, and the open source ecosystem provides scalability for new features when needed, as well as business agility. Specifically, the platform helped Venroy create a customized, mobile-optimized experience complete with all of the bells and whistles (from one-page checkout to customer reviews) of an engaging digital experience with very little adjustment to the core platform code — a factor that helped the sites launch within a two-month timeframe.
The e-commerce and mobile sites went live in October 2015. It was simultaneously incorporated within its Bondi Beach store, in Australia. "The goal was to build a simple experience that helps shoppers 'buy into the lifestyle,'" he said. "We needed to create an experience that would not have any resistance when browsing product or making a purchase — whether on a desktop, laptop or mobile device."
In a short six months, results have been "Ace!" "As a whole, brand sales are up 38 percent, conversions are up 8 percent, and mobile conversion rates alone have increased 80 percent," according to Venturi. "We have also seen a 40 percent decrease in average page load times."
Web orders placed in-store are also strong, "and going forward, we see stores becoming a major piece of our distribution strategy," he said, adding that Venroy hopes to open between three and five more locations in Australia within the next 18 to 24 months.
Looking ahead, the pair hopes to create a more seamless omnichannel experience, one that enables shoppers to return online orders at store level, as well as provide visibility into enterprise stock levels. "Having our logistics integrated with our website is absolutely critical," Venturi said. "The customer is clearly in charge. Providing them with standard service is just not enough."
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Deena M. Amato-McCoy is a freelance writer for Apparel.