Mazen Kurdy of Stylemyle.com tells us about creating one tech-enabled, easy-to-use, online platform for boutiques.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mazen Kurdy: We are doing fine, thank you. Covid has certainly made life interesting.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Stylemyle.com.
Mazen Kurdy: I started out working in a mix of startups and SME’s earlier in my career, then moved onto roles in multi-nationals, but I think I caught the startup bug early on and was always thinking about how I could make things better for problems that I noticed in various industries. After a few years of living and working in Paris and traveling throughout Europe, I was surrounded by fashion and would routinely visit these amazing multi-brand luxury boutiques that carried not only established brands but also local emerging luxury designers. After visiting hundreds literally, I noticed they all had similar problems. You could only buy from them in-store, they didn’t have websites, and if they did, they only had some of their inventory online. It was more a side business for them to sell online rather than something that was helping to drive the business. I realized it took a certain amount of expertise, first to get online and then a lot more time, effort, and money to really sell online. In essence, you needed a team for your online business, and most boutiques can’t incorporate that into their business model, and that’s where the idea of creating one tech-enabled, easy-to-use, online platform for all of these boutiques came to mind… that is Stylemyle.com.
How does Stylemyle.com innovate?
Mazen Kurdy: We understand the challenges that are faced by small, family-owned, independent brick and mortar boutiques. One of those challenges is stock sitting on the shelf.
Boutique owners have an amazing ability to curate beautiful pieces from established luxury brands and emerging luxury designers, but they sell most of their stock in their own neighborhood, and they don’t always pick the right mix of pieces and sizes. Some items sell faster than others. This leads to stock sitting on the shelves for longer periods of time. Globally, this is a 50+ Billion U.S dollar a year problem. Hence at Stylemyle.com, we came up with our luxury fashion-focused, technology-enabled online marketplace to create value for these boutiques by providing them with an additional channel to sell to a global luxury shopper.
We take care of everything from customer service through to coordinating shipping. Hence, we allow shoppers to experience purchasing that product without having to fly to London, Milan, Paris, or any other far-off destination.
They can have access to thousands of pieces of inventory from the comfort of their own home from some of the world’s coolest multi-brand luxury fashion boutiques. In addition, you can have a fashion stylist help you while you shop online, assistance with helping you find the right size, and of course, easy shipping and returns.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mazen Kurdy: Since we are a tech-based platform, every opportunity we have to connect with a shopper is an opportunity to show them the value we provide. It’s also an opportunity for them to shop with us. Since Covid, shoppers are home a lot more, and buying from home has increased; this also applies to luxury fashion. The difference is that buying habits have shifted. As you might expect, rather than purchasing more gowns for a night on the town, we see a lot more ready to wear for casual affairs. Bags and shoes are constants in this industry, but we also see sneakers and slides continuing to grow, along with clothes that are more comfortable. This is a trend that is likely to continue for the long term. From our end, our data provides us with insights to help boutiques make better purchasing decisions, and we are also able to curate more products that we think our shoppers will find interesting. We also communicate differently with our shoppers.
For example, let them know immediately if a delivery will be delayed and for how long due to temporary shutdowns in different parts of the world. Thankfully that is rare; however, shoppers appreciate being kept up to speed.
We are continuing to grow and see more repeat shoppers, which tells us we are doing the right things.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Mazen Kurdy: We took time to develop our tech stack, and we are constantly adding new innovations. This was rightly timed just before the pandemic. Building our own proprietary platform has paid off because we are able to understand better the patterns of our shoppers and to curate an experience for them while they are browsing our site. In terms of navigating the crisis, it has been a growth period for us and has forced us to be more proactive than we were before Covid. On the positive end, we have learned to communicate with our shoppers more efficiently and at different times than before the crisis.
Shoppers are looking for a seamless experience, oftentimes through their smartphones, and they want to be able to communicate instantly in case they have any questions. We have seen the growth of these patterns over the past 12 months and have been able to scale successfully by aligning with shopper habits and providing them with the experience they have come to expect while shopping on Stylemyle.com.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mazen Kurdy: There are many competitors in the industry that started long before us, Net a Porter and Farfetch, just to name a few. We admire these platforms, and although they have different models, they have really done well for themselves and their investors. As a whole, the fashion industry is very fragmented; hence there is a lot of room for many players. Also, since we are dealing with luxury fashion, it’s a long tail business, so it allows for a lot of variation in terms of inventory. Shoppers may like the curation or the experience of one platform but not necessarily another. Overall, the customer base continues to grow, so it creates a healthy environment. At the end of the day, our model is different and allows for competitive pricing versus other platforms on thousands of items. The majority of our inventory is also different from what you might find on other sites since we are partnering with boutique partners that are exclusive to Stylemyle.com.
Your final thoughts?
Mazen Kurdy: While Covid has put a lot of pressure on several industries, the online market is growing due to this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. I think companies that were prepared or were able to switch gears quickly and get themselves ready for the influx of new and returning shoppers have done well and will continue to do well as we get back to normal, whatever that may look like. Online shopping is here to stay, and the luxury market is no different. We plan on leveraging this opportunity and continue pushing forward.
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