Hellen Choo, CEO at Swagger tells us about men’s fashion.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Hellen Choo: Thanks for asking. We are doing well. The whole world has been in a totally different situation than before COVID-19 times, but hopefully, I believe we are turning around the corner.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Swagger.
Hellen Choo: Art & Design International’s in-house brand “Swagger” is a Korean men’s grooming, fashion & lifestyle brand established in Seoul City in September 2011. We draw inspiration from music and youth culture and our mission is to empower every man on the planet to feel fresh, sharp, and confident.
I found the company starting as a product designer and a brand marketer. My career in cosmetics started by branding and manufacturing for other cosmetic clients in the industry.
How does Swagger innovate?
Hellen Choo: On top of having a great team of chemists and sensory designers in-house, we execute a deep-dive consumer survey every year with our loyal online members to receive feedback, find preference on their daily use of men’s cosmetics and current trend on aesthetics and sensual factors.
Products from Swagger are improved and updated every year based on the results of this deep dive consumer survey which has led us to receive numerous beauty awards conducted by blind tests.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Hellen Choo: As most of the retail/consumer industry was impacted by the pandemic, our company was affected a lot because our sales were heavily dependent on offline retailers. However, we could see a different side of the situation; we come to notice that there is an opportunity in the online business of our industry sector, more than we expected. Some areas in which we expected that customers might be reluctant to go online were not that conservative to move in reality, we are trying to capture those opportunities. We have opened a global e-commerce website to offer nationwide free shipping and the sales have been surprising.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Hellen Choo: Fortunately, we had a sound cash balance, and so we could exert continued effort to enhance our competencies. However, from time to time with the lockdown, many of the colleagues had to stay and work at home. Although looking at the real products and communicating with people had been our general practice, different working experiences supported by IT were worth doing. We came to understand how to use time more effectively, and we come to communicate with each other more actively across the screen as well.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Hellen Choo: We are open to using as many tools as possible: general tools such as mail, direct messages, and social messages. Many functions/APIs which social network apps provide are helpful to communicate with our customers and to keep our customers informed of our customized updates.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Hellen Choo: We got small benefits from government grants to support employee wages.
Your final thoughts?
Hellen Choo: The pandemic exposed us to severe adversity and the situation still affects our lives, however, nonetheless, we could see a new opportunity that we can meet our customers, colleagues, and partners through different channels. The adversity affected the world simultaneously, but there are people who seek different things. We will find a way or make one after all.
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