"Partners, Not Products": Inside Luxury Retailer Harry Rosen's Dropship Marketplace & Headless Digital Transformation

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The pandemic forced Harry Rosen, one of Canada’s most storied luxury retailers, to close all their retail stores. Thankfully, they had already seen this coming from a mile away.

Harry Rosen has been the personal stylist of Canadian icons, visionaries, and industry leaders since 1954. They began the process of executing a digital transformation in late 2019.

In early 2021, they quietly launched their marketplace with personal care brands, as well as apparel. 

“We were already seeing our best clients shop us differently. This is a tell that digital needs to be infused in the experience,” says Ian Rosen, the 3rd generation of Rosens in the family business and Harry’s EVP of strategy and digital transformation.“Harry Rosen has been all about helping men feel their most confident, so that they do their best. Nothing in that statement that stops or starts with clothing”

Why Harry Rosen built a headless dropship marketplace

"As more and more consumers turn to online shopping the Convictional platform definitely facilitates the dropship process."
— Sandro Pugliese, International Sales & Business Development Manager of Psychobunny

The Harry Rosen team went headless — a software architecture model that uses different, specialized software for their backend and their frontend — so they could offer a stellar customer experience.

Decoupling backend systems from the frontend website helped Harry Rosen unlock an elusive quality that suppliers and online customers demand, but retailers often fail to deliver: speed. Ian says, “If you can't do things a little differently, or lean a bit outside the borders, you stop being yourself. I love the flexibility and the creativity that headless commerce unlocked for us.”

A headless ecommerce system allows them to do their brand partners justice on their website, alongside the world-class level of customer service they offer. Unless they fully controlled the experience, they could only default to what an off-the-shelf software provider allowed them to do.

Some marketplaces leave it to the brands to take care of customer service and returns. Not so, at Harry Rosen. Ian emphasizes, “It's our customer relationship to manage. The process has to be seamless enough that our team can do it, and we just need a point of contact from the brand. Harry Rosen is marketplace and dropship at scale done right, versus drop shipping becoming another sales channel headache for the brand to manage.”

Going headless, though, meant that the Harry Rosen team had to take a wrecking ball to their systems and rebuild it all from scratch. This led the team to think of novel go-to-market models, including dropship - a decentralized supply chain model that allows Harry Rosen fulfill customer orders without holding inventory.

Ian says, “Dropship and marketplace technology fit really nicely together. There were many product categories, and a lot of additional opportunities even in our existing categories. We didn't feel like we wanted to limit our growth to stuff that we bought. There's just too much opportunity out there.”

The Harry Rosen team knows that it takes capital and commitment to build a great brick and mortar store. They should know — they operate 17 physical retail stores, including 3 outlets, across Canada. They took a similar approach when they invested in a digital marketplace that could augment the in-store experience. Ian says, “We continue to invest in innovation. Dropship adds a story to the building. There's old world parallels to new world thinking.”

Harry Rosen wants “partners, not products”

"We've already recommended Convictional to others. It's been such a breath of fresh air to have something do what it actually said it would."
— Kevin Leboeuf , co-founder & president of Educated Beards

Harry Rosen had built its business on a white glove customer experience. But the team knew that, to set themselves apart, they needed rock solid relationships with their brand partners. “We're not looking for products, we're looking for partners,” Ian emphasized.

While the team knew that there were modern vendors out there that had strong existing online infrastructure, they needed a bridge that made their enterprise systems compatible with those vendors. 

That’s where Convictional came in. We serve as the marketplace platform between Harry Rosen and their partners’ ecommerce ecosystems. This technology partnership allows brands to onboard and join the marketplace with low overhead and minimal risk.

For example, Educated Beards went live on Harry Rosen’s site within a month. Kevin Leboeuf, co-founder & president of Educated Beards said, “This was the easiest partnership ever! Once Convictional reached out and explained very simply what they did and how easy it was to plug into, we had zero concerns. Only a few clicks and we were all set up.”

They received their first order 2 weeks after going live. Of the ongoing partnership with Convictional and Harry Rosen, Kevin says, “Everything is automated and the systems talk to each other very well, saving us all time effortlessly. No need for spreadsheets or sharing SKUs and product info.”

Another example is Psycho Bunny -- a New York City-based luxury apparel brand that “make clothes not just for the sake of it, but for the sake of self-expression.” Within 24 hours of going live on Harry Rosen’s site, Psychobunny received their first dropship order.

Sandro Pugliese, Psycho Bunny’s International Sales & Business Development Manager, says, “My biggest concern was whether Convictional would be compatible with our in-house systems. But from day one, the Convictional team has been able to adapt to our needs as we continue to scale our business.”

Harry Rosen puts their partners & customers at the forefront of their marketplace

Harry Rosen only lists brands on their site if their team personally loves them. They’re looking for long-term relationships with brands they can introduce to their clients, whose mission they can get behind.

In return, Harry Rosen offers truly omnichannel distribution for its brand partners. In addition to the dropship marketplace, they’re offering brands a seat at the enterprise retail table and an opportunity to partner with an established brand that gets traffic. 

Once their stores reopen, partners can break into exclusive shelf space and reach customers in store. They have passionate, highly trained personal stylists, called clothing advisors, who manage their individual books of business, curate products, and populate custom style “lay downs” for clients

Harry Rosen can do this because of their investment in technology. “That is a new way of shopping. I don't think we would have been able to facilitate it exactly how we wanted, unless we had a full control of the customer experience and the front end.”

For brands, Ian likens it to a referral that pays for itself “10 times over”, especially if a brand gets clothing advisors on the floor excited about their product. 

And the best part? “We're not putting customer service back on our sellers including returns,” Ian says. “It's our customer relationship to manage. For our partners, this won’t be another sales channel headache for them to manage. For the right brands, Harry Rosen is a dropship marketplace at scale, done right.”

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