Fashion Brand Struts to Lightning 50 Success Using Inventory Planner
Some retail brands are born in boardrooms, others are created in more unconventional circumstances — and J Brooks Boutique, an Atlanta-based online fashion business, is one of those brands. In 2016, its founder, Jessica (Jes) Brooks, bought a sewing machine from a catalog using points she earned as a reward for her performance in her 9-5 role as a data analyst.
She watched some tutorials on YouTube, bought some material, made a basic pocket square — and fell in love with sewing.
“The skills came so naturally and I was instantly bursting with ideas for clothes I wanted to make,” says Brooks, the brand’s founder, designer and CEO. “At the start, I made a lot of expensive mistakes, but I always had an eye for what I wanted to create, and then I’d reverse engineer it.
“By the following year, I had launched my first collection of skirts," adds Brooks. "They were all made to measure and I shared the whole process on Instagram. Slowly but surely, demand started to grow.”
Stitching Together Success
J Brooks Boutique shifted away from the made-to-order model in 2018, and began to expand quickly as a result of stopping all in-house sewing. A month before the pandemic hit in 2020, Brooks quit her secure, well-paid day job to focus on J Brooks Boutique, curating "chic, fabulous clothes for fashion-forward women who are tired of status quo wardrobe choices."
It was a gamble, but it paid off.
The business rapidly grew. Brooks hired a lean but talented team to help her fulfill demand and built a slick online store with Shopify Advanced as orders ramped up. But there was one problem that kept cropping up …
“We were constantly running out of stock of items and I found it really hard to work out how many units to make and how much material to order," Brooks recalls.
Brooks sought a solution to the problem. She found it in a market-leading demand planning tool from Brightpearl, Inventory Planner.
“Inventory Planner was a game changer from the word go," says Brooks. "It analyzes your data and gives you a reliable breakdown of exactly how much inventory we should manufacture and when to avoid running out or having too much stock.”
Inventory Planner is a tool that provides online merchants with accurate, hassle-free inventory planning.
“I have a strong gut instinct for the creative stuff, but the technical bits are more of a challenge, so it’s great to be able to count on a planning tool to fill in the gaps so that I can spend my time on more important things like growing the business and designing new items,” Brooks says.
Sewing the Strands of Growth
As other online retailers have hit stumbling blocks, J Brooks Boutique has had an incredible year, reporting a 170 percent year-over-year growth rate, which has secured the brand a coveted second place spot on Brightpearl’s US version of the Lightning 50.
This year’s league table was announced on Sept. 27 after researchers tracked growth rates for hundreds of companies across the United States to find the fastest growing e-commerce brands of the last year.
The table revealed that the top 25 U.S. e-commerce brands generated more than $341 million in revenue over a 12-month period (2020-2021).
Thanks to its impressive revenue gains, J Brooks Boutique was also crowned as America’s Fastest Growing Fashion Brand, according to the poll.
“It’s a huge thrill to be recognized in the Lightning 50 — especially as a Black-owned business during a challenging economic climate,” says Brooks. “It’s a chance to stop and smell the roses — and realize how far we’ve come. It’s been hard. Although our revenue in the last year has been amazing, there were months at the start when it was zero. But I always knew the business could succeed because I believed in what I was creating.”
Trying on New Channels
With the pandemic largely behind us, Brooks has already started building on the brand’s growth by adding new sales channels to its tried-and-tested approach of using Facebook, email and SMS marketing, including experimenting with livestream selling.
“We’ve recently started live selling and our customers have been incredibly receptive,” Brooks notes. “SMS and email marketing have been great for us, but one of the biggest barriers to shopping with an e-commerce brand is still the 'know, like, trust’ factor. Inserting a customer touchpoint via live selling has eliminated the barriers to purchasing for first-time customers. We’re able to show our clothes on different sized models and answer questions in real time. It helps us gain the trust of new customers and has strengthened our relationship with existing customers.
“I firmly believe livestream — and potentially other new sales channels — will be key to continuing our growth," Brooks says. "So far we’ve been doing it via Facebook, but we’re looking to use a specialist platform to streamline the purchasing part of it.”
In addition to growing livestream sales, Brooks has plans to bring back J Brooks pop-up shops across the country as an in-person way to connect with customers. There are also rumblings of international expansion, starting with Canada.
“I’m excited to see what the future holds — especially now we’re officially America’s Fastest Growing Fashion Brand,” Brooks says.
Note: Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 was open to all e-commerce businesses with annual turnovers from £/$1M-250M. Entry was free and applicants were asked to submit two full years of revenue data for 2020 and 2021 to be considered. Check out the full league table here.
Mark Hook is the vice president of global brand, communications and PR at Brightpearl, a retail operating system (ROS) for retailers and wholesalers with a clear mission to automate operational complexity so merchants can spend their time and money growing fearlessly.
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