Alexey Ilin of DREAMWHITE tells us about an outdoor wear brand that sells unique limited collections.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alexey Ilin: Thank you for asking. We are fine and healthy and are lucky that COVID-19 still avoids us all.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded DREAMWHITE.
Alexey Ilin: Before DW emerged, my parents had been producing coats for 15 years in small lots. Once my mom told me: “I am creating such a great product and nobody knows about it. Let’s do something with that”. So we decided to launch an independent brand, and we are developing it for 5 years already. Since then, we have made x20 growth.
How does DREAMWHITE innovate?
Alexey Ilin: We are building an omnichannel selling system. Every product we produce we sell through different distribution channels: directly to the customer with our retail stores and own online store, through marketplaces, and, finally, in wholesale. All the channels are supported by strong digital marketing and PR through social media with centralized customer service. Also, we are developing a branchy structure of own and outsource technologically advanced production sites, which gives us a lot of benefits such as great quality with optimal costs and a possibility to plan the production around the trends and demand.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Alexey Ilin: We finished 2020 with 5% revenue growth and some operational loss. The hardest thing was not stopping the development. Although the main distribution channel before the pandemic was our offline stores (about 93%), and we had to close them up, we managed to save the positive dynamics by focusing on online sales. Speaking of some other wins, after a hard year, we opened two more retail stores. We successfully launched sales on popular Russian marketplaces, grew our wholesale client base, and got ready to enter international markets.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Alexey Ilin: Of course, due to the cost optimization, we had to reduce the staff and decrease the wages for the rest during the lockdown. Nevertheless, we didn’t lose anyone due to the deterioration of the condition of work. The right thing was to reduce costs in the early beginning of the pandemic, even before the lockdown, and as soon as it became clear, it was inevitable. The hardest part was to support a high level of spirit of employees.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Alexey Ilin: After closing up the stores, our retail consultants had no work to do, so we decided to kill two birds with one stone: giving them another job and keeping business alive by transforming them into online consultants. We introduced CRM/CDP RetailCRM – and it appeared to be the most positive influence of the pandemic. We connected all the social media, messengers, and lead generation forms to omnichannel chat. We provided our clients with quick responses and high qualified support. We decided to keep the idea even after reopening the shops. Since consultants returned to their workplaces, we had to invite more employees, organizing a whole new online support department. Now all the clients get the answers to all the questions and have an opportunity to get a consultation before placing the order – instantly, from anywhere, 24/7.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Alexey Ilin: We got a modest sum of money as governmental support. But we had to return it due to the flaws of interactions between the government and the bank…
Your final thoughts?
Alexey Ilin: The COVID-19 influences the most severely on the emotional state of all the people on the globe, but entrepreneurs above all. Keeping a sound approach to things, making right and timely decisions, and changing rapidly by the pressure of circumstances would be impossible without family and friends’ support. And surely without our great DREAMWHITE team!
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