I have an exciting announcement for those of you who haven’t been able to make it to our on-site ES Markets. We are going to make some of the remaining inventory available online, which means you’ll have access to the same discounted items!
We have tried online versions of our sample sale several times before. We listed inventory online in 2015, we offered grab bags in 2017, and last year we tried personal shopping our sample sale inventory for you via email. Each time there have been logistical difficulties, headaches, and many disappointed customers that weren’t able to purchase anything. However, each time there have also been hundreds of you who were able to snag pieces at affordable prices, and we were able to achieve the essential goal of liquidating our deadstock and seconds styles.
We’ve decided to try yet another method, and I want to share a little more about why we made this decision and some details on what to expect.
Why are we making samples available online now when we often don’t? As I always am, I’ll be totally transparent with y’all: there are three big reasons.
One, we had planned to launch our collaboration with Alabama Chanin (AC) earlier this fall.
Due to issues in production and delays with the fabric we selected, we haven’t been able to launch those items when we originally scheduled. We had planned on that revenue coming in this quarter, and without it we need to pivot. We can’t simply sell more of our made-to-order items, because—as y’all know—we sell a certain amount of those each week based on our internal production capacity. Our AC x ES collaborative pieces are produced in their factory in Florence, Alabama, which isn’t reliant on our internal production capacity, so we need to recoup that revenue in a way that also isn’t reliant on our internal production capacity. We operate on a very slim profit margin (some quarters with no profit margin), so forgoing that planned revenue isn’t an option. We are incredibly excited about the new styles we’ve developed with AC, and we know you’re going to love them; the timeline has simply changed.
Two, we have the inventory to sell.
Oftentimes, there isn’t much inventory left to liquidate after our on-site markets. That’s the goal! On-site sample sales are the most efficient, cost-effective, and transparent way to liquidate seconds. It doesn’t require the labor-intensive project of listing the items online, processing and shipping everything, or communicating why the item is discounted (there are many, many different reasons) to the customer. All of that happens in-person at our market, and customers can hold and look at the item itself to determine if they want to purchase it. This year, however, we still have quite a bit of inventory leftover, and—as anyone who owns a business or has ever worked in retail knows—having money tied up in unsold inventory can cause major cash flow issues. This is why we’re a made-to-order business in the first place! Despite our lean, made-to-order model, we still accumulate seconds and overstock throughout the year, which I’ll talk more about in a minute.
Three, none of the online sample sale models we’ve used in the past have felt quite right, and we have a new method we want to try out!
Like I mentioned before, we’ve tried listing all our inventory on the site at once, grab bags of various items grouped together, and personal shopping via email. None of those options worked well for us internally, although we were glad to connect lots of products with happy owners. We know how much our online, faraway customers would like access to the discounted inventory from our markets, and we desperately want to provide it. If we can make it work logistically, we want to!
Okay, so what is the new method?
We’ll be making smaller groups of items within our Seconds and Overstock inventory available to purchase on a weekly basis via our website, and it will be accessed through a private link sent to our newsletter subscribers.
Why subscribers only? To provide a perk and incentive to those that keep up with our newsletter (it’s a really important tool for our business to communicate with y’all via e-mail!), and to provide as positive a shopping experience as possible. Keeping the audience limited to those on our newsletter list will mean it’s more likely for those shoppers to grab an item successfully than opening it up publicly. All you have to do to have access to the sale is sign up for our newsletter!
We have sorted through our remaining inventory and identified two categories of sample sale items that we feel comfortable selling online. Here is what they are, and how these accumulate throughout the year:
Seconds include deadstock items, which are garments that may not have be damaged but that we can no longer sell, and garments with light wear or minor damages that do not impact the integrity of the garment.
- Deadstock items can include discontinued styles and old versions of styles in good condition that have undergone sizing or pattern changes. We accumulate this inventory over time when we make a change or discontinue a style but still have some of those items on hand from previous customer returns.
- Some examples of minor damages include small fabric flaws, creases, minor stains, light wear, and imperfect stitching (see our FAQs for even more details). We accumulate this inventory over time when errors happen in production, when we receive fabric shipments with flaws, or when we receive slightly worn or damaged returns.
Overstock includes excellent condition, unworn garments that we have on hand from customer returns or from photoshoots.
- We accumulate this inventory over time as customers return items that didn’t work for any reason and as we produce samples needed for photoshoots. When possible, we send unworn, excellent condition overstock out to new customers if the same item is ordered. However, because we offer so many variations in style, size, color, and length, our overstock inventory accumulates more quickly than it gets depleted.
- Overstock can also include excellent condition discontinued styles that were never sent to customers as we moved away from certain styles, patterns, and fabrics.
- Occasionally, we need to liquidate some of this overstock for financial and space-saving reasons. This is one of those times!
Please also note that some Overstock and Seconds garments may be untagged, but have been specced for sizing.
Because there are not major, structural integrity-threatening damages in either of these categories, we feel good about selling these online, sight unseen. We are able to rework our existing product listings and imagery with minor edits to make items available to purchase through our website. On Wednesdays, we’ll list groupings of items.
By releasing just one grouping of items at a time, we’ll achieve several things:
- A manageable workload for our E-Commerce Team to take inventory, create the listings, and launch the products.
- A manageable workload for our Fulfillment Team to process and pack the orders.
- An organized way for y’all to prepare to shop. (You’ll have an idea of what’s coming each week, so you can decide if it’s a category you’re interested in.)
- Multiple opportunities for y’all to try your hand at snagging a piece, which is very different from our past online sample sales where all the inventory was made available at one time.
- (Hopefully) a less intense rush to the sale, since it will be spread out over several weeks.
A few disclaimers before I wrap up:
I want to remind everyone that this is a big undertaking for us, and it’s not easy to manage one-off inventory online. We are doing our best to try out a model that works well for everyone, but there are going to be hiccups. There is a limited amount of inventory, and many thousands of eager customers that will be trying to shop. There will be less inventory than there are customers, so not everyone is going to be able to purchase something. Things will sell out, and it will happen quickly. The inventory will be varied. Chances are, items in your cart may get purchased by someone else before you make it to checkout. It’s a gamble, and it’s not for everyone!
If you might be disappointed if we don’t have the item you’re looking for, if something disappears from your cart, if quick decision-making causes you stress, if you are uneasy about purchasing a less-than-perfect garment, this is probably not the shopping experience for you! Trust me, I understand. It’s why we work so hard to make our made-to-order shopping experience as peaceful as possible. But we think it’s fair to offer the option to those of you who are down for the adventure and don’t mind a little bit of a bumpy ride. It’s a great chance at a good deal, but please remember that this isn’t our primary way of selling and that in-person is really our ideal way to host these sales. Translating it to the internet is going to have its pitfalls, and we hope you’ll hang in there with us!
Thank you for hearing me out. Now let’s talk next steps!
First things first, if you’re interested in the sale make sure you’re signed up for our newsletter, and that our email address is not marked as spam so you get the link on Wednesdays!
Next, here is the schedule of what we plan to release in the next few weeks of 2019! Unfortunately, we cannot provide any further details about exact items that will be available.
Finally, be sure to check out our full list of FAQs specific to the online Sample Sale so you feel prepared. If you don’t see your question there, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll be happy to help!
Thank you so much for reading, and I really hope this creates an opportunity for many of you to grab items at more affordable prices in a way that feels positive and fun.