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How Designer Wardrobe makes $1 million a month

For many retailers, the past few years has been challenging, but online buy, sell and rental marketplace, Designer Wardrobe seems to have cracked the code when it comes to winning the pandemic.

Designer Wardrobe has reached a peak it has never seen before, hitting $1 million a month in online transactions.

The business is now being valued at $13 million pre-money – an unusual story to come out of the pandemic.

Chief Executive Aidan Bartlett says Designer Wardrobe was able to come out of the pandemic stronger than ever because it could “fine-tune” what it already had.

The pandemic was the perfect opportunity for Designer Wardrobe to focus on its online operation to create a better user experience and drive sales.

Just before the pandemic, Designer Wardrobe was seeing success to open three brick and mortar stores in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch in 2020.

But quickly, Bartlett had to make the decision to close the stores as part of the businesses changing strategy in the face of rolling lockdowns and uncertainty in retail.

The focus? Building a presence online.

Read more: How Designer Wardrobe raised nearly $2m in private equity

“We did have physical stores, but we had to make that tough decision to close them down and really just focus on what we’re great at, which is being online and ultimately all that together has just put us in a much stronger position now, even stronger than pre-Covid.”

Designer Wardrobe tackled building an online presence with an app, growing its online rental side through a bespoke warehouse, postal try-on services, try-on rooms and pick up options through smart lockers.

“The growth of the marketplace has been driven both by product initiatives to make the platform the best it can be, but also by growing curiosity and appetite for resale, which is actually a category poised to become even bigger than fast fashion by 2028, believe it or not,” he says.

Tackling the strategy led to immediate success for the business, seeing two-and-a-half times the growth it first saw in 2020.

“The growth was totally organic. We saw an increase in the number of transactions, more listings per user and the addition of more users,” says Bartlett. 

Coinciding with its years of experience in the industry, Designer Wardrobe has been able to grow to generate over a million dollars a month in sales.

Alongside this focus on building an online presence, Bartlett says the changing environment of how consumers are purchasing their items also contributed to the businesses success.

“I believe the fact that customers could buy pre-loved designer clothing for 60 percent less than the retail cost was the motivation, along with the fact that by buying this way, people could reduce waste and have a positive impact on the environment,” he adds.

The idea of having a brick and mortar store is never out of the picture, but Bartlett says as of right now, Designer Wardrobe is on an online focus.

“We do, however, recognise that there are customers that just really want that certainty of trying on something and knowing that it looks how they envisaged.”

Heading into 2023, Bartlett is expecting another successful year with the expansion of services such as a kid’s category and the move into the Australian market.

Bartlett adds that Designer Wardrobe is working on a new widget tool called ‘Sell Later’, a feature that will soon allow brands and retailers to easily resell items at a later date.

“This exciting technology, and other improvements we’ve made as we adapted our strategy for a post-Covid world have positioned us really strongly for ongoing success. There is a real appetite for more sustainable solutions in fashion and we’re proud to be leading the way.”

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles. To get in touch with her, email [email protected]

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