With the Christmas break just around the corner, retailers across the country are preparing for their busiest time of year, with eCommerce businesses making sure they have everything in place to take advantage of Australians’ growing love for online purchasing.
Sales data recorded by Square in 2017 highlighted that while spending grew significantly for retailers across the board in the months leading up to Christmas, it was eCommerce businesses that were pulling in a higher proportion of sales. Online businesses recorded a significant 30% more sales than their brick-and-mortar counterparts in December 2017, with a 108% jump in sales compared to an average month.
This comes as no surprise to Adam Walsh, co-founder and managing director of popular online swimwear startup Skwosh. With Christmas shopping coinciding nicely with the start of summer, the swimwear brand has done a roaring trade over the past few years in the lead up to Christmas, last year recording an additional 246% for sales in December, compared to their monthly average.
We caught up with Adam to find out more about how he prepares for the holiday shopping rush, his top retail tips, and the power of social media when it comes to starting a business.
Tell us a bit about Skwosh and how you started.
The idea of an online swimwear brand was developed by me and two of my childhood mates (Jack Turner and Jack Watts) back in 2015. We grew up together by the beach, so we always loved being active outdoors, but as we grew older we realised there was a real gap in the market for men’s swimwear. Women always seemed to have plenty of options at various price points but it wasn’t the same for men.
Eventually we got fed up with having to choose between the long-style cheaper surf brands or the high-end fashion labels, so we decided to create something in the middle that was affordable, versatile and fun.
Who comes up with the quirky prints?
We all wanted to make sure we created something that was not boring or stiff, but vibrant and fun. All the prints in our collections have been custom designed by our graphic designer Jack [Turner], who draws everything from scratch here in Melbourne. He does a really great job of designing styles and colours that can suit everyone, from your three-year-old nephew to your 60-year-old dad. We make every new collection different to the last, and while we do our best to capture the Aussie beach spirit, we make sure we add a bit of flair for versatility so you can go from the beach to the pool bar and still look great.
What did you do to prepare before launching your online store in 2015?
While we launched our online store in December of 2015, we had actually been advertising and generating interest through social media long before then. When it comes to online selling, people have to know who you are, what you’re selling and where they can buy your products. Advertising this before releasing products was definitely a good way for us to gauge customer interest and demand for our brand. We ended up having more than 10,000 followers on social media before launching, which really helped us launch into selling that first year.
How have you grown since then? And what makes you stand out now?
While we’re only a humble four-man operation, we have actually grown from strength to strength since 2015. Our revenue has more than quadrupled since our first year, and our product range gets bigger and bigger every year — in 2017 we added a kids’ range and this year we’re launching t-shirts and party shirts to match our bold patterns.
One of the areas I’m most proud of, however, is who we work with. We’ve collaborated with a number of like-minded fashion businesses, such as global watch brand Kapten & Son. We’ve also been involved with some great causes that align with our core values, like the Movember campaign to raise awareness for men’s health and Guide Dogs Victoria.
Many online retailers are shying away from a brick-and-mortar presence — have you thought about opening a physical store?
Selling online is definitely easier in many ways. You can keep your overheads low by not having to worry about renting a space or paying staff to work in-store.
That being said, I know there is also real value in having a presence in brick-and-mortar stores. Customers still enjoy being able to test the quality of materials and fit of a product, especially for something as personal as swimwear. We decided to create wholesale partnerships with some carefully selected boutiques across Australia to stock our collections so our customers still had this option.
It has also opened up a new revenue stream for us, which is super important for a growing business.
When did you start using Square?
When we started to sell wholesale stock to retailers, and do more events and pop-up activations, we realised we needed an easy mobile payment device that we could use to take payments on the spot. Square makes it really easy for us to take deposits or down payments for stock that we are giving retail outlets, without requiring them to pay a large lump sum up front or burdening us with chasing invoices. It has really eased up cash flow for us and the businesses we deal with.
What time of year are you busiest? And what is your best-selling print?
Christmas and summer is easily the busiest time of year for us online, but also for our wholesale orders because stores want to stock up big for the holiday shopping rush. Last year we saw online purchases rise almost 250% in December compared to an average month. The average basket size increased too, with people buying multiple items, so we knew there was a lot of gift buying happening.
We don’t really have a standout punters’ favourite because we change up our designs every year, but I must say the ‘Mr Cocky’ cockatoo designs were hugely popular earlier this year after Ed Sheeran was seen sporting a pair during his Australian tour — thanks, Ed!
The most important thing for online retailers to focus on is ensuring their website makes it as easy as possible for customers to make a purchase. That means your ‘shop now’ icon should be clearly visible and your checkout flow seamless, without too many steps.
The biggest mistake online retailers make is requiring customers to click through too many pages to make a purchase, which leads to higher cart abandonment. Not updating online stock quantities is also a massive pitfall — there’s no point doing all the work involved in getting customers to your ‘buy now’ page when you don’t have enough stock to fulfill their order. It’s important that every business owner knows the entire end-to-end process for purchasing on their own site, because if it’s a difficult process for you, imagine what it’s like for potential customers!
The other key element to running smoothly during busy periods is making sure your products are shipping on time to specific dates. It’s a good idea to give your shipping and logistics partners a heads-up of extra traffic expected during your busy periods, and also let your customers know if something is unlikely to be delivered by a certain date.
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