LoveFashionSales founder Rob Gorton tells us why saving customers money is a growth industry, why the Enterprise Investment Scheme is a plus and why the most dangerous risks to your business are always the ones you don’t see coming.
What’s the story behind your business?
LoveFashionSales.com officially launched in October 2011 and is the UK’s first online personalised sales shopping agent, free to use, which lets you know when clothes, shoes and accessories from your favourite designer and high-street fashion brands go on sale, most importantly in your size.
The site monitors over 400 UK fashion retailers and half a million styles from around 8,000 brands, helping registered users to find fashion discounts, saving time and money.
Whether you are looking for seasonal bargains from retailers such as LK Bennett, Hobbs and Urban Outfitters or designer discounts from Stella McCartney and Victoria Beckham, we can direct you straight to the bargain.
Average discounts on the site are 43%, with many top designers discounted by 80% or more.
How did the business get going?
In 1999, during the heady days of the dot.com revolution, I joined Herald Ventures, a venture capital fund in London which invested in early stage IT, internet and media companies.
Having successfully made it through a boom and bust in the online investment world, with the fund successful in raising a follow on fund, I wanted to move on to a new challenge, starting my own dot.com.
In 2005 I saw that fashion retailers and designers were starting to sell online, but consumers had to trawl through lots of individual websites to find the items they wanted. My idea was to aggregate the half a million or more products available online from high street retailers and designer brands onto a single website.
Consumers could then perform one search for fashion items or brands and see immediate results retrieved from hundreds of online retailers. This company was launched in December 2005 and is called LynkU.
In addition to monitoring fashion, the company also powers the fashion shops of many leading media brands including the Mail Online, Look Magazine, InStyle, Telegraph and HELLO!.
As the economic environment became tougher, I saw an opportunity to start up a new business using the company’s proprietary software and database to help consumers seek out bargains online.
I started thinking about LoveFashionSales in early 2010 to monitor all the price reductions, offers and promotions taking place in the online fashion sector.
The service combines the powerful online trend towards greater personalisation and recommendations: registered users input their clothes sizes, their favourite labels and items they are seeking, so the results of products that have just had their price reduced that they receive are tailored to their needs.
What opportunities are there for eCommerce start-ups in this political/economic environment?
In recognising today’s austere economy and the erosion of consumers’ real disposable income with common pay freezes and escalating living costs, there are opportunities for companies to develop innovative solutions that focus on saving consumers time and money.
Specifically, in the online world that we operate in, across many different industry verticals, there are increasing volumes of information which if processed effectively can lead to more informed decisions being taken by consumers.
A large part of that processing is being able to tailor information to the specific requests and needs of each individual consumer. Greater personalisation and recommendations arm the consumer with more perfect information enabling them to make more informed decisions to save money and time.
The new Seed EIS scheme shortly to come into force offers entrepreneurs a powerful tool to help them in the difficult challenge of raising funding for their new venture. This is an important government initiative to help encourage funding at this most testing stage for new businesses where funding is at its hardest to raise.
Are you confident about the future – more or less so than pre-launch?
A high level of viral referrals, returning loyal users and feedback on the money we are saving consumers makes me more confident.
What do you see as being the main risks (red tape, unpredictable economy, consumer confidence etc)?
The worst risks are those which you haven’t thought about! For example, walking into the office one day in June last year and being given one hours notice that the whole building containing our company and twenty other businesses was closing down immediately.
But the main risks I focus on are those which we can actually be proactive in addressing.
Consumers have become more discerning than ever as to who they choose to spend their money with. That motivates us to be the best possible fashion shopping sales assistant that it can be.
We have examples where we have saved consumers hundreds of pounds on fashion purchases over the course of their use of the service.
Risks more inherent to our sector I think of on a daily basis. The pace of advancement of the online sector is more fluid than ever, hence we must progress and evolve our service continually to stay at the forefront of our chosen sector.
What kind of things have you done/could you do to mitigate that risk?
Building a truly compelling and unique service for consumers is our way of mitigating risk with the current low levels of consumer confidence. We constantly react to consumer feedback to evolve the service, to increase the relevance and personalisation of our results for our users. Innovation is key and our development plans are consistently under review.