In the fast-paced world of retail, being able to quickly launch new products and test promotions can be the deciding factor between success and failure. Harry Rosen, a luxury menswear retailer, understands this all too well. With the ability to rapidly launch new categories, they are able to stay ahead of the competition and keep their assortment relevant.
In this post, we’ll share insights from a RetailWire LIVE conversation featuring Shannon Stewart, Harry Rosen's Chief Product Officer, and Chris Grouchy, Convictional Co-Founder and President. They will be sharing the secrets behind how Harry Rosen was able to curate and launch 40 brands in just 60 days.
You'll learn valuable tips on how to:
• Identify new brands and categories that your customers will love
• Grow your assortment while minimizing inventory risk
• Build the capability to test new categories at the speed of consumer demand.
Use customer insights to choose a new product category
Shannon explained that their core customer is a leader, an entrepreneur, or a professional who wants to be dressed appropriately in any situation. They also have an eye for value and quality and are looking for a 360 approach to style that extends beyond their clothing to their personal surroundings.
The idea of expanding into home goods started when they noticed that their customers were buying impulsive purchases of home goods that were sold out immediately. They realized that there was a market for dressing more parts of their customers' lives and making sure that everything was a reflection of their personal style.
Chris emphasized the importance of having a clear customer definition and starting with a drop ship model to minimize the risk of purchasing inventory without historical data. Retailers should also vet every seller and vendor and make sure they agree to the retailer's requirements on margins and service level agreements. He also recommended using null customer searches to surface what customers are searching for that retailers don’t yet have.
“Surface categories and vendors that may not be prevalent on the site today, but that customers are actually already searching for.”
Collaborate with experts to scale your vendor sourcing process
Having Convictional as a partner helped speed up the process and do some of the legwork, which was critical in getting the project up and running in a short amount of time. The team at Harry Rosen provided guidelines and directions for product sourcing to Convictional, who then presented them with a variety of different possibilities and options that they had vetted through. This legwork included screening vendors for financial agreements and service level agreements.
When the vendors were passed over to Harry Rosen, they went through the same process they typically use for ready-to-wear vendors. They looked into the history of the brand, its DNA, and its positioning in the market. They also evaluated the quality and value of the products and personally experienced the samples to ensure they were proud to present them to their clients.
During this process, the Harry Rosen offices were filled with various home goods for a few weeks, but this was necessary to make sure the team collectively felt confident about the products they would be offering to their clients.
Find the right partner to design and promote your new category
Working with Brian McCourt, a Canadian designer and HGTV personality, was a key factor in the success of Harry Rosen's entry into the home goods market. Brian's approach to curation, with a focus on quality and attention to detail, aligned perfectly with Harry Rosen's brand values.
Since Harry Rosen was new to the home goods category, Brian’s involvement gave their customers confidence in their curation choices. “And it sort of gave us permission to be in that space, permission to put our voice forward along with Brian's,” said Shannon.
Brian helped guide the retailer in curating a vision for Harry Rosen Home, both in-store and online. The in-store installation at the Yorkdale store brought the vision to life, while the online platform allowed customers to see an expanded offering.
Video Source: Harry Rosen
Remove the technical barriers to getting vendors live
The secret to getting 40 brands live in 60 days? Removing the technical roadblocks to getting vendors live. Chris calls this ‘merchandising at the speed of ideas’.
Chris shared how they were able to bring more speed to market through technologically sophisticated capabilities. This includes the ability to integrate with the vendor’s system of record, regardless of the systems they use, and having all vendor product and inventory data flow into the right systems that retailers use.
These capabilities ensure that all the data is pulled from vendors automatically, leaving more time for the retailer to be a tastemaker and find new brands to add to their assortment for customers.
Laura Davis (00:03):
Hello, welcome to this Retail Wire Live webcast. It’s the first of the year, and we're super excited to bring you some inspiration for kicking off that year with a really intriguing case study. And it's from men's clothing retailer, Harry Rosen. I'm going to be moderating today. My name is Laura Davis. I'm the founder of Branded Ground. I have 25 years of experience in branding and retail store design and innovation, but also a longstanding member of Retail Wire. I'm on the Brain Trust and participate in the daily Retail Wire, daily online discussion. So if you're not a Retail Wire regular, make sure to check it out. And so pleased to have Shannon and Chris here today to talk about a really, really good topic, one that we didn't realize was so achievable. And I'm going to actually just start with Shannon and say, Shannon, do you want to kick it off and tell us who you are, what you do, and about Harry Rosen?
Shannon Stewart (00:53):
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much. My name is Shannon Stewart and I am the Chief Product Officer for Harry Rosen. So in a nutshell, that essentially means that I oversee the curation of product for our stores and online. And of course managing that inventory and making sure it's in the right place at the right time and into our customer's hands and in a timely manner. And for those of you who don't know Harry Rosen, we are a men's only chain of retail stores. We've been around since 1954. The company was started by Harry himself with about $500 in his pocket, and a dream of just dressing men really well in beautifully tailored garments and probably even more importantly, making sure that they had incredible customer experiences. And fast forward to today, we've become a global men's wear powerhouse, if I do say so myself.
Laura Davis (01:49):
Fabulous. Chris Grouchy, why don't you tell us about yourself and about Convictional?
Chris Grouchy (01:54):
Yes, absolutely would certainly agree with Shannon's perspective. Harry Rosen is definitely a men's luxury wear powerhouse, and it's been amazing to be part of their journey. Just a very brief introduction on Convictional. Convictional enables retailers to connect with vendors for drop ship and marketplace, and so we enable retailers to provide a truly self-serve experience for their handpicked and curated vendor relationships to onboard those products and merchandise them into their assortments so that they can launch new categories and products in a matter of days as opposed to months. So really excited to get into the journey of Harry Rosen and Convictional here today. So thanks for having me.
Laura Davis (02:44):
Fantastic. 1954, Shannon, that is some heritage.
Shannon Stewart (02:48):
Yeah. Almost 68 years.
Laura Davis (02:51):
So there's a lot of core brand attributes involved in that. Tell us about this core customer and how they've evolved over time.
Shannon Stewart (03:00):
Yeah, absolutely. We would describe our core customer as leaders, as entrepreneurs, professionals, people are really exceeding in their fields and they're looking to be trust appropriately no matter what situation they find themselves in. So whether that be for business, for event dressing, for weekend for downtime, they're looking to make sure that when they walk into a room or walk into a situation that they're dressed beautifully from head to toe.
We talk a lot though about not only our core customer but our customer of tomorrow and that new up and coming test customer and we sort of see the customer of tomorrow as being someone who is discovering fashion, but they're also really looking for value in their investments. So they probably have a good idea of how they want to present themselves. They know how they want to feel, so they're looking to us for a little bit of advice, a little bit of education, a little bit of guidance to move them in the right direction. But most importantly, they want to make sure that when they're investing their money in clothes or whatever it may be, that they're really seeing value and a return on that investment.
Laura Davis (04:16):
So what we're talking about today is Harry Rosen who's moving from this legacy fashion kind of core competency into home goods. And it's a very obvious that you all were already curating style and some of the conversations, but what direct insights led you to going, "You know, I think we should jump into home goods."
Shannon Stewart (04:38):
Yeah, that's an excellent question. So we consider ourselves purveyors of good taste. So what you surround yourself with, whether it be in your home office, your home itself, any of your personal surroundings should really be a reflection of your own personal style, how you want to present yourself, how you want to feel, and your environment has such a big impact on your mindset. Similar to when you know put on a great suit and you feel good about it, you have a different kind of mindset when you're in an environment that feels right and an extension of your personal sense of style. So we had sort of dabbled in home goods in various collections that we were already doing business with. There would be extensions of the collection, so maybe a cashier throw or a watch box or cigar holder, something that wasn't apparel and we'd pick up pieces here and there and they always sold out immediately.
They would sell to significant others for gift giving or they were just impulsive purchases when the client was in to buy a suit or maybe online buying an outwear piece. And just these are pieces that kind of spoke to the client and was something that they just had to have because it was so beautiful. So we sensed that there was a market for us to speak to our clients beyond just what they were wearing on their bodies, but maybe what they wanted to dress their environments with.
And we felt that the extension of the home goods category was not such a far stretch if we applied the same principles to product that we apply to our ready to wear in our shoes and accessories. So we're looking for products that are obviously beautiful, products that are useful, that provide value to the client, and ultimately are a joy for the client to own. So although it seems like a bit of a stretch, it's really just about dressing more parts of your life and making sure that there's sort of like this 360 approach to style that doesn't end with what you put on your body in the morning that extends to how you go about your day and the kinds of objects that you have to represent a little bit more of who you are in your personality.
Laura Davis (06:59):
Nothing makes me happier than a brand that knows exactly what they live to provide people and purveyors of good taste. It's just perfect because everything ladders up to that. And I love that you guys kind of put a toe in the water very carefully. Can we go there and saw some immediate resonance? That's really good advice for people who are thinking about this. So Chris, what other advice do you have for a brand like Harry Rosen or anybody else who's going, "I'm eyeing this category, I'm not sure if we can go there." How do you guys advise them on extending into something like this?
Chris Grouchy (07:30):
Well, I think Shannon actually nailed it with how Harry Rosen approached this idea. And it really starts with a clear customer definition. And from there, retailers will look at opportunities that really compliment their core assortment and don't detract from it. And the risks of launching a new category are certainly evident if the retailer is deciding to purchase inventory to have assortment for that new category. This is risky if they don't have historical purchasing data to back up those inventory buys because effectively they're sort of guessing about what the demand will be. This risk goes away if the retailer chooses to embark with an adjacent category through a drop ship model. Effectively supply and demand are at equilibrium if that's the method of fulfillment that they choose to use. And so I think that risk mostly goes away if they use ship. Now, some retailers may also say that there is maybe a risk associated with brand dilution.
So the types of retailers that we work with are very much not pursuing a flea market approach to merchandising. They are taste makers like Shannon's team and the rest of the folks at Harry Rosen, they have an opinion on assortments. And so to bring that perspective into a virtual inventory or ship assortment is critically important. Every seller, every vendor should be vetted by the retailer's team. And they should also agree to the retailers' requirements on margins and service level agreements. And if retailers are still concerned about brand dilution as a risk factor to Shannon's point, look at your search results. Look at what customers are searching for that, where they're getting null searches in the search box. Because in most of the cases that we've seen, customers associate other categories in products that the merchandising teams within retailers may not carry today. And so that's a great starting point to surface products, surface categories and vendors that may not be prevalent on the site today, but that customers are actually already searching for.
Laura Davis (10:01):
Never really thought about that makes all the sense in the world. So let's keep talking about this vendor conversation. So Shannon, you've got this, and Chris, both of you guys, you have this legacy team that's been sourcing for fashion since 1954 and all of a sudden you're like, "Hey, we're in home goods." How did you go about discovering, vetting and kind of lining up some of the right vendors and products assortment that was the right fit for your brand?
Shannon Stewart (10:25):
Yeah, absolutely. And it certainly was outside of our usual sourcing expertise, but there were a few things that came together to help us arrive at the assortment that we came to. And I know we're going to talk about it probably a little bit later because I think it's one of the upcoming questions. But one of the things that we wanted to do was to make sure that we were seen as being credible in the home goods area. So we worked with Brian McCourt, who is a Canadian designer. He's an HGTV personality, and he helped us curate the vision for Harry Rosen Home. So through Brian and some of his recommendations on product, some vendor recommendations, we coupled that with some existing vendor relationships that we had who had contacts in the home industry. And we took this direction and we worked with Convictional to say, "Hey, here are the categories that we're looking for."
And it was fairly specific, like "we need tableware, we need towels, we might need an outdoor fire pit, we need a bar cart.", everything that you could imagine that would create sort of a beautiful space in a beautiful home. And I think the image that's up on the screen now is actually an image of the installation that we did at our Yorkdale store to present this Harry Rosen Home concept. So we wanted to ensure that this was an experience that could be had in store and online. So essentially everything that is within the Yorkdale installation is shoppable, it may not be available for the customer to take home with them that day, but it's shoppable through our online assortment.
So with Convictional who we'd already been working with. So we knew the process, we were able to give them guidelines and directions for product sourcing, and they came back to us with all kinds of different possibilities and options and vendors that they had vetted through. Chris mentioned the importance of financial agreements and service level agreements. The team at Convictional did a lot of that legwork for us to vet through and screen vendors to see if they would be appropriate or not. When those vendors were then passed over to our team at Harry Rosen, we then went through the exact same process that we go through with a ready to wear vendor. So we like to know about the history of the brand, what is the DNA of the brand, what is their positioning in the market?
Do the products offer amazing quality and value for what they are right through to needing to see those samples and experience them ourselves to make sure that there would be something that we'd be proud of to present to our clients. So there were a few weeks when our offices were full of candles and pillows and bar ware and all kinds of things that we wouldn't normally have floating around the office, but we just wanted to make sure that collectively we felt really good about what we were going to be offering up to our clients. So it really was not a dissimilar process to how we normally work. However, having Convictional as our partner to speed up the process and do some legwork for us based on the parameters that we had given them was critical in getting this thing up and running in the short amount of time that it took to get it up and running. So it is a really great partnership.
Laura Davis (14:01):
And probably so fun with the team. We were in prep, we were hearing about some of the team is actually enlisted to test out some of the products.
Shannon Stewart (14:07):
Oh my goodness, yes. Yes. With all of our drop ship products, as Chris mentioned, this is not just about loading up our site with as many products as possible. It's about selecting products within a brand that make the most sense. And over the last couple of years we've worked with Convictional pretty intensely on our grooming assortment. And Ian Rosen, who is our president and CEO, has been our tester for grooming for many, many different kinds of products. We always joke because he has lots of hair and a beard, he's the best tester to try all of those products. So I can't imagine the number of shampoos or shaving creams or whatever it may be that he's gone through. But it is kind of a fun part of the job to be able to experience some really beautiful things yourself.
Laura Davis (15:00):
Right. Yes. Well, obviously time to market was a big deal, and I'd love to kick this off with Chris as well. What was driving, getting there, 40 brands and 60 days, what was the driver behind that? And Chris, how were you able to help make that happen?
Chris Grouchy (15:15):
Well, I think it's important to just frame this out by saying that we live in a world of TikTok and Instagram trends, vendors and products will go viral in an instant, and it's difficult to predict which ones will go viral, which ones will hit with the right customer. And so you just have to be ready. And so retailers that can merchandise at the speed of ideas stand to win more share of wallet. And so speed to market is just something that curated a modern drop ship model should be able to enable. In a world of, say, EDI vendor onboarding times could be three to four months on average. You might be missing the trend if that's just how long it takes for the vendor to go through technical onboarding, independent of any merchandising conversations that need to be had ahead of that.
So how we are able to just bring more speed to market to these types of merchandising decisions is through just some very, so some very technologically sophisticated capabilities. Like for example, being able to integrate with the vendor system regardless of the systems that they use. So if they have to migrate or do a custom implementation to get up and running with a retailer, that's going to be factored into time to market. Does the platform, the ship platform that you're using, have a self-serve supplier onboarding experience? If it's going to require lots of back and forth, we need to take that into account.
And then likewise, having all of that vendor product and inventory data flow into the right systems that retailers use today, whether those are ERPs, PIMs, e-commerce platforms, that data that we're pulling from vendors needs to get into the appropriate place without much manual work. And if that can happen all automatically, then these numbers that Harry Rosen hit are certainly possible across the board. And by the way, that just leaves more time for the retailer to be more of a taste maker, to have more time to vet vendors and to source them so that they don't have to worry about all of the technology roadblocks that might stand in the way of being able to merchandise at the speed of ideas.
Laura Davis (17:39):
You're really removing the barriers. And that's really exciting about this, removing the barriers of risk, removing the barriers of technology, complexity and cost and time. Think about 75 years ago, if we told retailers that you'd be able to do this one day, they would say, "Are you kidding me right now?" It's really exciting. So let's move over and talk about your influencer, your celebrity influencer. What made him the right partner?
Shannon Stewart (18:03):
Excellent question. So Brian McCourt, as I mentioned before, is a super talented Canadian designer. He is also a host of an HG T V program. He is not only very talented in his field, but also extremely articulate and thoughtful, and we just felt really embodied Harry Rosen's spirit in terms of his method of curation is he's really all about quality. He pays such great attention to detail and it's just a real joy to work with. He understood our vision immediately and when we started having some back and forth with him, it was just so evident that his, the DNA of how he worked fit perfectly into the DNA of Harry Rosen. And we had a really collaborative working relationship with him and our teams so that he could really guide us in the right direction.
Recognizing that this was a new space for us, we needed to make our customers feel confident in our choices. And it sort of gave us, I guess, permission, if you will, to be in that space permission to put our voice forward along with Brian's. And because we felt that both the online experience and the in-store experience were equally important, we really leaned on Brian to help us create this in-store installation, which brought the whole project to life. And then online, the beauty, again of being able to onboard so many brands is that we could expand out the offering online. So if you liked what you saw in store, you could go online and see so much more or vice versa. If you liked what you saw online and were in the Toronto area and wanted to visit and see some of those products in person, you could visit the Yorkdale store and do. So Brian really opened up a new world to us of interior design, which we quickly found was so similar to the world of clothing design. There were so many great parallels that we were able to build on.
Laura Davis (20:25):
The products are so beautiful too, and it's a wonderful thing because you're extending your role in your customer's lives and what's next with that? So are you guys thinking about other brand extensions or product extension, category extensions? And if so, what's driving that? Is it profit? Are you seeing increase in whatever KPIs you're using, whether it's Brenlav or NPS, what's driving that? What are you thinking about?
Shannon Stewart (20:50):
Well, the thing that's really top of mind for us constantly is customer loyalty. How do we get our customers to shop with us again and again, and how do we get their friends to shop with us and their sons and their brothers and extended family and whatever it may be. How do we create this ongoing wheel of loyalty? And by offering up products that are a natural extension of style and design and things that are useful and purposeful, it just allows us to capture their imaginations and hopefully get a little bit more of that share of wallet. And we want to continue to test and learn. I think this foray into the home world, it has been successful. I think there's even more that we can do. So I think we're going to continue to test and learn perhaps with onboarding even more vendors based on what categories have done well.
I think there's more to be had there. And the beauty of our ship model and partnership with Convictional is that it's very easy to test and learn, no inventory risk. It's just really up to us to present the products in a really beautiful manner and make them as enticing as possible and hopefully get our customers excited with the new things that we're able to offer up. And I think once we see this particular category to a certain level, we may move on to other things, but I do feel like this one has quite a bit of legs and we've literally just scratched the surface.
Laura Davis (22:33):
Was there an operational impact on your team? Did you guys have to create new processes or bring on new people? And I would love to hear how was Convictional able to automate some of the backend that was needed? Chris, if you want to take that after Shannon.
Shannon Stewart (22:47):
Yeah. No, it would not have been possible without our partnership with Convictional. And the beauty of this home launch is that we were able to build on the learnings from our grooming launch, which was the launch that was sort of the bigger project that we did previously. So we kind of understood the process and we understood what was needed. Some of the processes on our end were a little bit new, but just sort of smoothing out that integration and the ease of onboarding vendors was so critical because a lot of these vendors you're sitting down with, not necessarily all of them were familiar with the drop ship program.
So to sort of put them at ease to say, "Hey, this is not a difficult process. We can make it painless for you. We're going to turn you over to our partners at Convictional, they're going to take it from here. They're going to hand hold with you through the process." Just made the conversation so much easier. So on our end, ultimately a product is a product, right? Whether it's a beautiful vase or a suit, we want to present them both in the correct kind of light, describe them beautifully, photograph them beautifully, showcase them beautifully, and offer up something exciting to our clients.
Laura Davis (24:02):
And now it's all worked out. So you've got to process. You can plug in new things into.
Shannon Stewart (24:05):
We do. Yeah, exactly.
Laura Davis (24:07):
So talk about this a little bit first, for the automation, I love the word, smooth it out and digging the risk out of this, how are you able to automate that? And are you seeing this for other brands, other retailers who are thinking about new category extensions? Do you expect this to be kind of a new norm?
Chris Grouchy (24:24):
Well, one of the key insights that we really started Convictional with is that in retail, the supplier, right, the vendor, they're the first customer. And so if you know the process to get them onboarded is challenging. If it's an obstacle course, if it's really manual, they may choose to not participate or maybe they're going to take their products elsewhere because the types of vendors we're talking about here with Harry Rosen, they're highly curated about who they partner with too.
And so Harry Rosen has done an exceptional job of partnering with technology companies that are incredibly forward thinking about the types of user experiences, workflows, and integrations that they bring to the table. And so very briefly on that, in SHIP is not a new concept. There's been direct vendor fulfillment models. In the past, some have been very successful, but by and large, prior to Convictional, they were mostly electronic data interchange based, meaning the vendor had to open a textbook and determine what an EDI eight 50 document is in order to onboard or there would be significant costs to the vendors, both from an IT perspective or software licensing.
And so these types of hurdles can really set a retailer back from being successful and in drop ship model. And we just take all of those risks off the table with our platform. Now you mentioned, Laura, you asked about if other retailers are adopting this too. I think in many cases, launching an adjacent category can be an experiment to test and learn and grow and drive more margin dollars back into the business, which certainly was the case for Harry Rosen.
But in other times, right, in other maybe verticals, it's just a matter of survival. These are board level conversations, and this is echoed by the fact that the current macro economic climate is hitting retail pretty hard right now. Retailers, at least a lot of them, don't have a lot of excess working capital to place more inventory bets. And so in categories where they don't have a lot of prior experience, a drop ship model is just really important for them to kind of weather the macroeconomic storm that we're in. And we have an opinion about how they can do that successfully by identifying adjacent categories that would work well for the types of customers that they want to service, but it's certainly one that they should approach thoughtfully. And we're also seeing brands partner with other brands to launch new categories as well.
Laura Davis (27:00):
It's a new norm. Really exciting. And we just kind of touched the tip of the iceberg here with this conversation. If you're a retailwire.com subscriber soon, you're going to get an invitation to download an ebook you guys have put together, and it's a synopsis of the discussion, but also a link to the recording. So if you haven't subscribed yet on retailwire.com, please do. And on behalf of everybody from Retail Wire, thanks so much for joining us and particularly Convictional for sponsoring today's webcast and Shannon for telling the story. We just don't get enough kind of insights from the trenches in this industry. So your generosity, both of you in talking about this is it's a real gift to people who are struggling with some of these strategic decisions. And lovely, lovely to hear about some of these new barriers kind of being broken down for us. Thank you so much.
Shannon Stewart (27:50):
Thank you. It's been a pleasure.
Chris Grouchy (27:52):
Thanks, Shannon. Thanks Laura.