Fashion Brand Struts To Lightning 50 Success Using Inventory Planner
Black-owned DTC fashion brand has achieved 170% growth in a year
Some retail brands are born in boardrooms, others are created in more unconventional circumstances – and J Brooks Boutique, an Atlanta-based online fashion business, is one of those brands.
In 2016, its founder Jessica (Jes) Brooks bought a sewing machine from a catalog using points she earned as a reward for her performance in her 9-5 role as a data analyst.
She watched some tutorials on YouTube, bought some material, made a basic pocket square – and fell in love with sewing.
“The skills came so naturally and I was instantly bursting with ideas for clothes I wanted to make,”says Jes, the brand’s founder, designer and CEO.
“At the start, I made a lot of expensive mistakes but I always had an eye for what I wanted to create, and then I’d reverse engineer it.
“By the following year, I’d launched my first collection of skirts. They were all made to measure and I shared the whole process on Instagram. Slowly but surely, demand started to grow.”
Stitching together success
The business moved away from the made-to-order model in 2018, and began to expand quickly as a result of stopping all in-house sewing. A month before the pandemic hit in 2020, Jes quit her secure, well-paid day job to focus on J Brooks Boutique, curating ‘chic, fabulous clothes for fashion-forward women who are tired of status quo wardrobe choices’.
It was a gamble, but it paid off.
The business rapidly grew. Jes hired a lean but talented team to help her fulfill demand and built a slick online store with Shopify Advanced as orders ramped up.
But there was one problem that kept cropping up…
Jes says: “We were constantly running out of stock of items and I found it really hard to work out how many units to make and how much material to order.
“Inventory Planner was a game changer from the word go. It analyzes your data and gives you a reliable breakdown of exactly how much inventory we should manufacture and when to avoid running out or having too much stock.”
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Jes adds: “I have a strong gut instinct for the creative stuff, but the technical bits are more of a challenge, so it’s great to be able to count on Inventory Planner to fill in the gaps so that I can spend my time on more important things – like growing the business and designing new items.”
Sewing the strands of growth
As other online retailers have hit stumbling blocks, J Brooks Boutique has just had an incredible year, reporting a 170% year-on-year growth rate, which has secured the brand a coveted second place spot on Brightpearl’s US Lightning 50.
This year’s league table was announced on September 27 after researchers tracked growth rates for hundreds of companies across the United States to find the fastest growing e-commerce brands of the last year.
The table revealed that the top 25 US e-commerce brands generated more than $341 million in revenue over a 12-month period (2020-2021).
Thanks to its impressive jump in revenue, J Brooks Boutique was also crowned as America’s Fastest Growing Fashion Brand, according to the poll.
“It’s a huge thrill to be recognized in the Lightning 50 – especially as a black-owned business during a challenging economic climate,” Jes says.
“It’s a chance to stop and smell the roses – and realize how far we’ve come. It’s been hard – and although our revenue in the last year has been amazing, there were months at the start when it was zero. But I always knew the business could succeed because I believed in what I was creating.”
Trying on new channels
With the pandemic largely behind us, Jes has already started building on the brand’s growth by adding new sales channels to its tried-and-tested approach of using Facebook, email and SMS marketing, including experimenting with livestream selling.
“We’ve recently started live selling and our customers have been incredibly receptive”, Jes adds.
“SMS and email marketing has been great for us but one of the biggest barriers to shopping with an e-commerce brand is still the ‘know, like, trust’ factor. Inserting a customer touchpoint via live selling has eliminated the barriers to purchasing for first-time customers.
“We’re able to show our clothes on different sized models and answer questions in real time. It helps us gain the trust of new customers and has strengthened our relationship with existing customers.
“I firmly believe livestream – and potentially other new sales channels – will be key to continuing our growth. So far we’ve been doing it via Facebook but we’re looking to use a specialist platform to streamline the purchasing part of it.”
As well as expanding livestream sales, Jes has plans to bring back J Brooks pop-up shops across the country as a real life way to connect with customers. There are also rumblings of international expansion, starting with Canada.
Jes says: “I’m excited to see what the future holds – especially now we’re officially America’s Fastest Growing Fashion Brand.”
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Note: Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 was open to all e-commerce businesses with annual turnovers from £/$1M-250M. Entry was free and applicants were asked to submit two full years of revenue data for 2020 and 2021 to be considered. Check out the full league table here.