Interview with an agent - Cathie Osborne, Founder of Retaissance
4 August 2020
Author: Mariana Girardi
We sat down with Cathie (at a distance) for a chat about her new project Retaissance, that we believe can help many brands - established and emerging - to venture the digital world that’s becoming more and more part of our daily lives.
What is the difference between Retaissance and a common online showroom? Explain what a marketplace means for wholesale.
Whilst an online showroom gives a brand a place to direct buyers to, it does not have a pre registered buyer profile and requirement database within it. Retaissance has an extensive infrastructure behind it allowing brands to filter their specific requirements, not only on product selection, price points and sustainability but also by the brand attributes and procurement methods which are so important with the current changing wholesale model. These attributes include sustainability, minimum order quantities, short order, in stock only and trans seasonal products. We have a proprietary database of 27,000 contacts as well as 18,000 followers across social media meaning brands have access to buyers across all channels and in all categories. Retaissance’s purpose is to allow brands and buyers to Meet, Communicate, Trade and this allows both ends of the supply chain to kickstart a resurgence in retail growth.
Did you create Retaissance because of the covid crisis that hit the retail industry so hard, or you had this idea beforehand?
We have been working on a digital platform since June 2019 and have been through research analysis and proof of concept prior to lockdown. After a week of reflection on what we had looked at already along with a contemplation in the changes in customer behaviour and retail performance as a result of the pandemic, I decided the project had to be ready as soon as possible following the reopening of the retail sector. By week three of the lockdown, the infrastructure development team was in place and since then, my feet haven’t seen the ground since!
Please explain how Retaissance works in a few words and how will your brands be able to sell to shops all year round?
On Retaissance, each brand will have a profile page showcasing their range and each product has a dedicated page highlighting all of their details and attributes, similar to a line sheet. Look books and lifestyle imagery is also able to be uploaded to help brands further connect with buyers. In summary, the site is designed around our core statement of Meet, Communicate, Trade. We will engage membership through interesting content, best practice and industry sector specialists writing blog posts for us to help inspire and engage the community.
The wholesale models are changing – buyers resources are stretched whilst their targets and demands are high. By offering a platform that will find and access tomorrow’s brands today, as well as future proofing market share by tracking brands as new markets develop and extending your lines with fresh independent brands, we are hoping this makes their job more straightforward.
In our opinion, independent brands have now got the best opportunity they have had in the last decade to gain market share and open new stockists in the UK, Europe and beyond. All of this is powered by having an ‘always on’ showcase of your products allowing brand access to the best global network to open up markets at home & abroad by connecting with leading buyers and increasing sales.
We are removing the cost barriers associated with the traditional trade show model and abolishing the rigid framework of traditional buying, allowing buyers to try in low quantity and then come back when sales take off in order to maximise revenue.
Is there a particular profile of brand you are looking for?
We cover all non-food retail categories and as such are happy for virtually any brand to come onto the site. Our backbone is slow fashion, longevity, high quality and high craftsmanship. We want to promote diversity and sustainability as well as helping to promote small and upcoming businesses.
Is it ok for brands to also have an agent or (physical) showroom in countries you are already selling? Would this be a competition for the agent, or can you work with them in collaboration – Retaissance as a sales tool for the agent?
Our platform has been designed as a showcase and a tool for brands to connect to worldwide buyers. The output of our product is an email to the brand or representative of the brand in the relevant country that the stockist is interested and would like to carry the brand. This can be a tremendous lead generator for an agent and works to make their job more efficient. In turn, this allows them to build better relationships with customers and allows a pipeline of new business to build up in the background. Retaissance does not, and will never, replace a man on the ground but may deliver opportunities for agents to carry new brands.
I assume imagery is very important to showcase the brand. Would you help brands on creating this or would you wait until they are ready?
We have a network of designers and photographers that will be able to support a brand should they need it. For us, the sooner a brand is on the site, the sooner they can begin to find new stockists. Therefore, anything to assist, we will do.
What kind of buyers do you work with? Independents, department stores, gift shops…? Also, any restrictions on types of buyers that can access the marketplace?
Our differentiator is that we have buyers and specialists within all sales channels across non-food retail. For example, a jewellery brand could currently be selling to a retail jeweller and are not targeting or aware of the opportunities within the gift, heritage or museum markets or even the department stores. In summary, our buyers are from a range of independent gift stores, boutiques, men’s outfitters, footwear, lingerie stores, dept stores, children’s wear, designer wear, museums and heritage. We also have buyers from multiples in all sectors and also the major department stores.
You also mentioned you had many enquiries from agents, what kind of comments have you heard from them? That would be very interesting for us to know and understand if this will be well accepted by agents as well.
We have had very positive feedback from agents in all countries, we have also had enquiries from agents to help sell our services worldwide.
Many agents have asked if we could download the brand showcases into a presentation so that a high quality document can be used for other new business enquiries. Agents love the fact that this is working in the background all of the time and helping them generate a new business pipeline on their behalf. The difficulties currently with social distancing have highlighted the need for them to have a system exactly like this.
One repeating question is the cost per brand and because of this we will only charge them 50% of the sign up cost to make it cost effective for bringing multiple brands onto Retaissance.
People are likely to draw comparisons between Retaissance and other existing platforms like Joor. Are you able to tell us how you differentiate from these other platforms?
I have been asked a number of times how we are different to Joor and Nu:Order. There is a large difference between our model and their platforms. Firstly, both of these platforms carry apparel only and includes none of the other retail categories, whereas we are covering all non-food retail sectors. In addition, their models are a full procurement system involving large investment in resources and revenue to set up, giving little agility for smaller brands and these high resource and revenue costs mean many independent brands and buyers are prohibited from accessing their platform.
Compared to the £800 plus required to access their platforms plus a share of commission, our model starts at just £75 and we don’t take any commission. Our pricing policy is focussed on inclusivity and the chance for all retailers to gain access to the market.
All brands that are working with Anton Dell Consultancy can access a 33% discount to support their transition period to finding a new agent or to support an existing one.