After years of catering to the whims of wholesale partners, 10-year-old fashion brand Cleobella is refocusing on its core customer.
Cleobella, which specializes in handcrafted styles with a bohemian slant, is coming off a year of new lessons from the launch of its first paid ads. Data from Google and Facebook showed its shopper is older than the woman it had been targeting: She is 35- to 45-years-old, as opposed to 25 to 35, a range the company had based on its social media followers and wholesale partners’ customer demographics. In addition, she has children, makes $150,000 a year, shops at Whole Foods and reads Goop.
In early 2018, Cleobella began catering to that customer with the styles and messaging featured on Cleobella.com. By late December, sales on the site increased by 35 percent year-over-year.
Making a product with the new target customer in mind resulted in a new collection of leather goods called Core, launched in November and sold exclusively through Cleobella. The company originally started with a line of leather bags made by artisans in Bali, but had turned its back on the product category due to wholesale partners showing a preference for novelty bags (macrame and beaded styles, for example) and also new direct-to-consumer brands like Cuyana offering leather styles at a better price.
Selling Core directly to customers allowed Cleobella to both offer competitive pricing and deliver styles free of the influence of buyers. The plan is to build on that model, as fashion e-commerce becomes more competitive and wholesale partners increasingly demand exclusive product. Basic clothing styles will be added to the Core line this year.
“We work so hard to support our partners, but it’s a lot to take on,” said Angela O’Brien, Cleobella’s founder and creative director. “Everyone wants something different: Shopbop wants it sexier, Anthropologie wants it more covered up. So we’re essentially designing for other people to fit their market all day long. We just want to be smarter about our design.”
To continue both accommodating wholesale partners and boosting direct sales, Cleobella is dropping its SKU counts early this year, giving partner retailers 25 styles to choose from — and inevitably tweak — down from 30.
Cleobella currently sells through 400 specialty stores, as well as large e-commerce sites like Shopbop. The brand’s e-commerce site is now its largest account, a spot formerly held by Revolve. It also has one physical store, near its Huntington Beach headquarters. While its wholesale-direct sale split is currently 20-80, its plan is to eventually strike a 50-50 balance.
“Sometimes the noise clouds the vision of the brand,” said O’Brien. “Working with wholesalers was how we launched and got our name out there, but now the climate has changed. Wholesalers are confused, and they’re struggling.”
Another new driver to the site last year was the brand’s first influencer campaigns, strategically scheduled according to product drops, taking place 11 times a year. The company sent mini collections of product to micro-influencers, with an aim of showing how to style the pieces IRL. It then promoted their imagery across social channels, linking to Cleobella.com.
The brand is in the midst of a website relaunch, started last year. Updates being made include clearer callouts of site-exclusive product, more information on the brand’s sustainability efforts and more incorporation of storytelling centered on the brand’s partner artisans in Bali and India. Currently, 70 percent of visitors to the site are new customers. — Jill Manoff
CPG and beauty products are converging
An interesting trend stood out to me this week while I was writing about the dental aligner brandSmileDirectClub.
Typically, this type of brand would be considered more of a health brand than beauty brand, and that would mean it would be outside Glossy’s realm of coverage. But the company is in the process of integrating itself in the beauty world by arguing that it’s a cosmetic brand focused on smiles, not an orthodontics brand focused on teeth.
Over the past few months, there’s been a shift in the categorization and market approach for traditional CPG products, like those in the feminine care, dental care, baby care, shaving and deodorant spaces. Clean beauty is taking over baby care and feminine care, not to mention that sexual wellness is a new self-care trend. In addition, dental products like Lebon are getting Instagrammable packaging, and aluminum-free deodorant products are being credited for leading clean beauty movement. These products would typically be considered consumer product goods, but the beauty and CPG industries are increasingly seeing a convergence as the very concept of beauty shape-shifts to allow for more innovation.
One brand called The Honey Pot is exemplary of this hybridization of beauty, wellness and CPG; it is a cross between menstrual care, feminine hygiene and sexual wellness. The brand offers 100 percent cotton tampons and pads, clean vaginal hygiene wipes and washes, and moisturizing lubricant. Overall, the existence of the brand reflects the changing consumer values, desires and shopping patterns.
“We’re changing the way the consumer sees CPG and beauty by how we showcase our products, both from a creative standpoint and a functional one,” said Beatrice Feliu-Espada, founder and CEO of The Honey Pot. “We want our customer to view shopping for her personal care products with the same excitement as she does her favorite skin care or beauty product. CPG is no longer solely about function but it’s also about creating an aspirational brand that compels consumers to want to invest in a lifestyle.” — Emma Sandler
How fashion brands are (strategically) picking up the pace
Fashion moves quickly. What is popular now won’t necessarily be in vogue in six months. Unfortunately, for most companies outside of ultra-speedy online brands like Fashion Nova, it takes time to design, manufacture, distribute and sell products which may be impossible to move once all that is done. This leads to brands having piles of product they can’t sell and a whole lot of wasted time and effort.
I asked a few brands about how they deal with this problem and what others can do to curb overproduction. Here’s what Kerry Cooper, COO and president of buzzy women’s footwear brand Rothy’s, said.
“You’ve got to be able to shorten the time from demand to production or localize manufacturing, which typically means maintaining close control of your supply chain,” she said. “In addition, build in flexibility to be able to ‘chase’ product that is selling well to fulfill demand. The flexibility to operate with small-batch production is key, and a strategy we use to produce only enough shoes to fill customer demand. We also own and operate our own factory, which is a huge help.” — Danny Parisi