Independently owned boutiques, with small teams and limited technology resources, have largely been left behind in the age of e-commerce. While Farfetch caters to the affluent online luxury boutique shopper, and has raised $300 million dollars in funding to do so, the younger, entry-level luxury shopper is largely left out of Farfetch’s exclusive price points.
Enter Garmentory, launched in 2014 by former boutique owner Adele Tetangco and co-founder Sunil Gowda. The Seattle-based startup works with boutiques and small designers to help them clear out inventory by selling it online to a global audience. Its items fall in the $75 to $500 range. It now works with 300 boutiques and small designers in the U.S. and Canada, compiling clothing, accessories and shoes that are about to go out of stock into one online store. It helps the boutiques style their items for an online audience, provides free shipping and return labels for the boutiques to fulfill the orders, and in exchange, takes an undisclosed cut of each sale.
“I came to the business with the psyche of a storeowner,” said Tetangco. “The longer you sit on merchandise, the less valuable it becomes — unless we’re talking about a Birkin. We wanted to help boutiques get rid of their excess inventory without big markdowns.”
In November, the company raised a $2 million round of venture funding, led by MHS Capital; it now has raised a total of $3.4 million. The company is expanding its business to include menswear categories and making new hires. This month, it added a menswear director and an art director to its Seattle team, bringing it to 17 people.
A dress by the indie brand Ozma on Garmentory’s site
Garmentory is in a crowded market with its share of challenges. Most notably is Farfetch, launched in 2008. On the buyer side, online marketplace Joor matches wholesale buyers at boutiques with emerging fashion brands. Vilara, an e-commerce marketplace for boutiques based in India, was acquired by shopping platform Voonik last year.
What’s more, since boutiques are often managed by a small team without many resources for tech solutions, scaling online is an afterthought. Startup founders have taken notice.
“Ideas like this come in groups,” said Ashley Paintsil, editorial director at FashInvest, a business platform for fashion technology. “Everyone wants to make the best boutique network. What it comes down to is what you’re selling. If you have the best selection and people can afford to buy it, they will.”
Garmentory made an early attempt to differentiate through not just price, but how people purchased items. When it launched, Garmentory’s merchandise was sold through a “make an offer” system, where customers would make offers on items directly to boutique owners in order to snag a last-chance dress or blouse. The boutique could then reject or accept the offer; Garmentory, for its part, listed the original price, as well as the suggested price. Tetangco said this helped sidestep deep discounting.
The option to make an offer is available through some boutiques, but most items are now sold through fixed pricing. Instead, Garmentory has focused on recruiting a mix of boutiques and designers that can’t be purchased elsewhere. According to Tetangco, Garmentory now accounts for more than 50 percent of its partner boutiques’ online orders.
“Retail has changed so much, you have to be online. You have to be active on Instagram,” she said. “The more products you have online, the more you’ll sell. What we want to do is celebrate the customers that come to the site. They want to see something different. We want to make it easier to do so.”