Finlay London’s mission is to become the go-to destination for eyewear lovers who are looking to express their individuality.
Bringing individuality to wholesale
Finlay London is an eyewear brand born with a desire to create frames which celebrate the individuality of its wearers, and has proven popular with a number of high profile names, including Rihanna, Jenson Button and Jessica Alba.
Finlay London first began trading through wholesale channels, before making the jump to DTC (direct-to-consumer). Here, one of their founders, David Lochhead, explains what inspired them to make that journey, and what lessons they learned along the way.
“Three years ago our mentor advised that our brand was too reliant on the wholesale model,” David told us. “At the time, we were 80% wholesale, 20% online, which is very common for a lot of brands of our age and stage.
“The major problem was that wholesale has very high costs to serve. I worked out that there’s a 16 touchpoint process to get a wholesale order over the line. From meeting someone to showing them the collection to the buyer making a choice, it’s a much more labor intensive model.
“Then if you layer on to that the costs of attending and exhibiting at a number of trade shows throughout the year, your costs before you sell anything with wholesale can easily be six figures.”
To compound those issues, Finlay London also found that their 80/20 model hit the bottom line. David explains: “If we sell to wholesalers, they will put a decent margin onto anything that we sell to them. Whereas, selling directly to customers through our own website or store, would allow us to keep 100% of the margin.”
“We began exploring how we could grow our DTC business, by opening a new retail store and enhancing our online channel. For us, this made sense as it would provide more opportunity to grow while lessening our reliance on just one channel; so that’s exactly what we did.”
A clear vision
Before adding another channel into the mix, Finlay London knew they needed the right system.
David explains: “We knew we needed to have a single view of our inventory at any one time so we started looking for software that could integrate all our channels under one system. It wasn’t enough for us to have our store and online, it had to include wholesale too so we could have complete visibility of the business.”
Finlay London went live with Brightpearl in August 2017 and opened their first physical store four months later in December 2017.
“Opening the store was really interesting,” recalled David. “When we were pulling down the blinds on the opening day and saw dozens of people trying the door to get in, we knew we were doing the right thing.”
The store had an immediate impact, but it also proved to have a knock-on effect on Finlay London’s website too. “It really felt like we had rocket fuel poured on it,” David told us, “in part due to the stir caused by Meghan Markle wearing our Percy sunglasses.”
As the brand grew rapidly and added new channels to its once primarily wholesale business, the complexity of its operations became an increasing challenge. Finlay London recognized that it’s much harder to deliver seamless care and service to customers when they are buying and interacting on different channels.
There was also a need to adjust to increased volumes of website traffic and to meet more demanding expectations from their direct-to-consumer channel.
“We’ve always wanted the customer experience to be fantastic and seamless and that required us to adapt,” David told us. “If a celebrity wears one of our sunglasses, demand will skyrocket. It’s no good if we have to wait 3-6 weeks to get more inventory, consumers want it now, and if they can’t get it from you, they’ll look for it from somewhere else.”
“That’s why Brightpearl’s solution was an essential component in our journey. It gave full visibility over our inventory management, while also streamlining our order processing.”
The DTC movement is about making the complete buying experience fast and frictionless for your customers. David agrees: “It’s very important for us to get the order over the line by making the buying experience and also the post-purchase as frictionless as possible. To that end, we offer free worldwide returns to make the end-to-end shopping experience as easy and seamless as possible for our customers.”
Finlay London attributes its ability to deliver fast and frictionless experiences to having the right system supporting them.
“Because wholesale orders are in the pipeline for longer than those customers coming to us via a DTC channel, it adds an extra layer of complexity to order fulfillment”, says David.
“However, Brightpearl automatically updates each sales channel in real-time with information on what products are available. And its single source of truth means I can dip into the platform at anytime to quickly get an overview of our inventory, order fulfillment and sales across channel, which is so important to removing potential bottlenecks in our operation.”
The future’s bright
Finlay London continues to grow its DTC channel and has expanded into the US. As David notes, “US sales account for 40% of our web orders so we’ve opened a warehouse in the states with a partner that manages fulfillment and domestic returns.”
“Via Brightpearl, our US web orders now automatically divert through to our partner to process. The platform makes it almost effortless to keep track of, and, in addition, we save costs on shipping and returns while also making the shopping experience easier and quicker for our US customers.”
What’s next for the eyewear brand? David explains: “Right now, we’re finding that retail is more profitable than wholesale. But, there’s a scale at which wholesale becomes a fantastic business model and as our brand grows over the next 18 months, we expect wholesale to again become a focus for us.”
“That’s why having a system like Brightpearl is crucial. Our wholesale, store and online channels feed inventory, customer and sales data immediately back into the platform and we’ll be able to use those data-driven insights to establish where the business should be going next.”
2017 revenue growth