LIFEwithBIRD was launched in 2002 and has since grown into a multichannel fashion brand, attracting both domestic and international consumers.
Developing an online fashion retailer is something many think they will be good at, but the reality is the space has always been fiercely competed.
For this reason, those that do find some shred of success in the local market deserve their share of credit. Having developed their brand, a following and a multichannel sales strategy, LIFEwithBIRD Co-founders Nicholas Van Messner and Bridget McCall surely fall into this category of entrepreneurs.
Having founded the offering in 2002, LIFEwithBIRD is now a thriving small-to-medium fashion retailer that includes six physical outlets. Power Retail recent interviewed the Co-founders to discover more about how their brand is shaping up.
Specialty product: Women’s fashions, footwear and accessories
POS provider: Vend
How did the concept for LIFEwithBIRD come about? Who was involved and what was required to take the idea from concept to market?
LIFEwithBIRD started as a handmade fine leather bag-wear company and gradually evolved into what the label is known for today. Nicholas Van Messner and Bridget McCall noticed a gap in the market in terms of accessibility to quality, everyday handmade bag wear. In 2002, both decided to combine their passion for design to create and deliver a high end product to what then was a niche market. Starting with bag-wear meant that they could explore and use fine leather imported from Europe such as Italy, never once compromising the quality of the final product. Within two years LIFEwithBIRD’s following grew nationally and internationally and evolved from bag-wear to incorporate women’s wear.
Has the concept changed since that time?
The root of LIFEwithBIRD is still at the very essence of every collection. Visualising a gap in the market and finding ways to fill in this gap through fabrics used, print manipulation and has proven to help evolve and refine the brand.
How would you describe your Unique Value Proposition(s)?
LIFEwithBIRD is a contemporary Australian Ready-to-Wear fashion label featuring directional fits and luxury fabrics. LIFEwithBIRD offers versatility and trans-seasonal styles & shapes that transcend trends.
What is your product range like and how is it sourced? Are there any special considerations for supply and delivery with this product?
LIFEwithBIRD products have a focus on women’s wear and accessories/ bags/ shoes that complete the look of the LIFEwithBIRD woman. Products also include international and local designers.
Do you manage physical outlets or is the business online only?
LIFEwithBIRD consists of six physical boutiques (five in Melbourne, one soon to be unveiled in Sydney’s CBD at The Strand Arcade) as well as one online store. Continuing to develop on new national markets by growing our wholesale and retail presence is key. As well, utilising the strength and potential reach the online store holds to expand internationally.
What specific technologies do you use to enable your business?
We utilise many different technologies and programs on an everyday basis as tools to enable the business. From our e-commerce platform which utilises Shopify, to our accounting software Xero and our retail point of sale Vend, every department depends on the reliability of each and one of these programs, which in turn ensures the smooth operation of the business. By staying up-to-date with technology and using our analytics to find ways to improve the business and create the best experience for our customers has dramatically helped make the right decisions. For instance, we noticed how much our phones and mobile tablets are in our hands and realised the need for us to create an online site specifically for the mobile customer. The mobile-site was launched and within one day noticed sales derived from the mobile platform increased by 30 percent, which was a great response! That being said, we have a strong product to offer – how we deliver the end product is in part facilitated by technological improvements, third party providers and quite a fair bit of research.
How do you market your offering? Has your allocation changed significantly across any of these channels in recent years?
Enforcing desired perception through strong product and marketing is key. Our marketing efforts are sustained by specific social tools, communication methods, events and our retail store staff. How and when we communicate information directly affects our interaction audience (existing/ new) and how the latter is perceived. We tailor our content to each platform, for instance, the data we gather from our social networks can tell us a lot about the ways in which our audience prefers to interact with the message and how this translates into maximum engagement. LIFEwithBIRD strives on being adaptable to the every-changing needs of our customers, this means providing exceptional customer service and continuing to create collections that speak to the LIFEwithBIRD woman.
What may have worked in the past may not translate into tomorrow.
What successes have you had?
The company’s success has been marked by many factors, mainly through the positive response and support we continually receive from our customers, thus allowing LIFEwithBIRD to grow as a label, introducing new retail stores and a sustainable business.
What current trends in the industry are having an impact on your business and how do you expect this to change in the coming months? Are there any future concerns you’re eyeing?
The Fashion Industry is ever-changing and so are the needs of our customers. Technological advancements have helped businesses reach a new demographic, and therefore enabled brands to access a larger audience. However, this also means that a customer has limitless opportunities, a brand needs to stand out and create a more memorable experience. Tapping into the emotional attachment one may have and providing consistency can surely stand the test of time, specially with the new arrival of fast-fashion stores into the Australian market.