On October 6, Glossy hosted its first member-exclusive Executive Roundtable at CSTM Haus in Manhattan, bringing together dozens of executive leaders from fashion brands, beauty brands, retailers and agencies. The discussion was lively, specifically focusing on challenges facing our industries and suggestions and strategies for navigating them.
Here are three of the biggest challenges our attendees brought up and what they said about each of them.
Off-price and discounting
Several attendees spoke about the difficulty of selling through inventory and the necessary evil of having to offload inventory to off-price retailers like TJ Maxx. Desiree Verdejo, CEO and founder of the beauty brand Hyper Skin, said she’d love to keep inventory low to avoid having to discount, but as her brand grows, that’s a difficult prospect.
“Especially now that we’re selling in Sephora, for us to ramp up to the order sizes that Sephora requires, ordering tens of thousands of products, we have to rely on off-price retailers or we take a loss,” Verdejo said. “It’s a safety net for all that inventory.”
Rachel Thebault, co-founder of Gen-Z-focused apparel brand Woodley + Lowe, said her brand has been keeping leftover product on the site until it sells out and resisting the urge to discount. To drive traffic, the company uses holiday-timed promo codes that apply to the whole site, rather than discounting specific products.
“It plays into our sustainability model,” Thebault said. “Our clothes are evergreen. We are selling you things that you don’t have to get rid of after a year, so we don’t get rid of them either.”
Aaron Luo, founder of the high-end bag brand Caraa, urged other leaders to resist discounting as much as possible. It’s a “slippery slope” that teaches customers to just wait until a brand’s product goes on sale, he said.
A retail executive speaking off the record concurred.
“When you start selling through TJ Maxx, there’s an interesting dance there,” he said. “After a while, TJ Maxx might come to you and ask you to start just sending new products straight to them, and the cash is tempting. But it is definitely a slippery slope.”
The new work-from-home status quo was mostly praised by the attendees, but the difficulty it’s created in hiring is real.
“Our company only makes people come into the office three days a week,” said one attendee, who asked not to be named. “Three days is really not terrible, and yet I cannot hire people because of it.”
Younger generations of employees expect higher degrees of flexibility and more time to work from home. But most of the attendees at the roundtable said it’s not the expectations of young employees that are the problem. Instead, it’s convincing older executives who may have a decidedly old-school view of how a business should run to adapt to these changing expectations.
Luo also had a simple but novel solution to reducing the time and resources spent on hiring and recruiting: Cut down the rounds of interviews required.
“Our new strategy is one interview,” Luo said. “If 80% of the relevant hiring managers agree to give the person a chance, we give them the job on a 30-day trial period, which they know about.”
Luo said this strategy has multiple benefits. For one, the new employees appreciate not having to go through three or four rounds of interviews for a job they might not get anyway. Hiring managers have to spend less time in interviews, and the role can be filled more quickly. Finally, if the person ends up not being a good fit, the company only lost, at most, 30 days giving them a chance.
“Not only that, but interviews don’t always tell you if someone will be a good fit anyway,” Luo said. “The best way to see if someone is good for a role is to just let them give it a shot.”
Marketing and customer acquisition
Marketing was another big topic, particularly around targeting Gen Z and customer retention.
Strategies discussed included focusing on word-of-mouth and sending out “trunk shows in a box” to valuable customers, encouraging them to share the pieces with friends and family. Some mentioned targeting “Queen Bee” types who have a lot of sway in their social circles.
The problem with that approach is that it’s very difficult to track, according to Thebault.
In addition, with inflation and economic pressures mounting, several attendees voiced the opinion that brands should pull back from acquiring new customers. Instead, they suggested focusing on keeping a core audience through this rough economic time.
“We’re spending a lot more time on retargeting and retention,” Luo said. “Going through a recession, it’s important to take care of that existing customer. We hired somebody recently whose primary job will be about retention.”