As real time fashion trade shows finally enter the digital realm, they’ll be facing competition from new, entirely web-based versions of the model. ShopToko, which just launched on October 26, is one such virtual trade show. The site seeks to offer independent retailers the same buying muscle (and subsequent low prices) as major chains and department stores, by offering those small retailers limited-time access to an array of designer apparel and accessories. The site’s founder, Liza Deyrmenjian, created ShopToko to go hand-in-hand with Afingo, the online service she formed to effectively link up designers with vendors, producers, and business partners. Here, Deyrmenjian lets us pick her brain on her newest venture:
The High Low: ShopToko operates in a similar fashion to an online flash sale. Were you inspired by those models?
Liza Deyrmenjian: Yes, I was inspired in part by the flash sale model, but moreover the impetus came from a desire to give unique and emerging brands a new way to reach retailers without tremendous customer acquisition costs. I also wanted to solve a problem for the independent retailer in terms of finding new brands. Typically, a small boutique owner gets to attend only one or two trade shows a year and they miss out on seeing so many wonderful lines. ShopToko provides a platform for those discoveries without so much as hailing a cab.
HL: How are you approaching independent retailers to buy through ShopToko? Are many of them prior affiliates of Afingo?
LD: Many of the brands on the site are Afingo members, but to reach retailers we’re utilizing a mix of grass roots outreach and targeted marketing efforts. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive!
HL: Do buyers need to pay to join the site? Can you explain ShopToko’s revenue model to us?
LD: No one pays to be on ShopToko.com. We work with the designers and brands to secure a discount off of wholesale pricing. We select 6 to 16 items based on quality, design and price from each brand, from both current stock for immediate delivery and pre-orders. Purchasing through ShopToko gives the independent retailer 5% to 8% below wholesale pricing with no minimums to buy, a discount normally reserved for major retail chains.
HL: Do you plan to advertise ShopToko? If so, how and where?
LD: Following “The Lean Start-Up” model, we are not investing heavily in advertising at this time, instead focusing our resources on direct mail, viral marketing and social media.
HL: Further down the line, how do you see ShopToko evolving?
LD: We see ShopToko as the perfect complement to seasonal trade shows. We’re always “open,” providing retailers with a low-risk opportunity to fill in stock, test out new products and discover unique brands. That value proposition, particularly in the current challenging economic environment, is one that is really resonating with both retailers and designers.