How Inventory Planner gave plus-size apparel brand Vikki Vi the confidence to scale
Gaining access to in-depth inventory insights and unlocking a new route to growth.
“To scale online you have to sell more of the same thing to more people, and go deeper and deeper into your inventory levels – and that’s risky. Now I know when I have enough, and that knowledge is extremely valuable. Having Inventory Planner behind us means that for the first time in my 20 year history, I have the confidence to scale online.”
Danielle Malconian, CEO of Vikki Vi and Plus By Design
If there’s one thing Danielle Malconian can claim about her Los Angeles-based apparel brand, Vikki Vi, it’s brand loyalty. She started her original plus-size clothing business (“the old garage story”) back in 2001, when listing on Google cost only five cents. Since acquiring Vikki Vi a few years later, Danielle powered the business through periods of economic turmoil – the 2008 crash, a financial conflict with a manufacturer, then Covid – but Vikki Vi’s steadfast fans of mostly 45+ women have carried the brand through 20 years and counting.
“I can’t tell you the conversations I’ve had with women who tell me they own over 100 pieces of Vikki Vi and still love and wear each one,” Danielle says. “We have around a 75% return loyalty rate, that certainly helps us.”
Now, after gaining access to in-depth inventory insights and unlocking a new route to growth, Danielle is ready to take the brand even further.
Founder of Vikki Vi and Plus By Design, Danielle Malconian was working at Nordstrom in early 90s, when the introduction of its plus-size clothing department, Encore, first sparked her love of confidence-building garments. Fast-forward to the turn of the millennium, and the dawning of e-commerce led her to set up her own plus-size apparel site, Plus By Design.
“Back then the plus-size industry was born into just a few specialty stores. I was fortunate enough to be part of that beginning and realized it was a passion of mine to help women feel confident and beautiful,” she says.
Plus By Design saw enough success to allow Danielle to work from home while raising her new baby – and when the company that owned Vikki Vi declared bankruptcy a few years later, she jumped at the chance to take over the apparel brand. Vikki Vi’s core product of mostly slinky black basics in high-quality, flattering cuts has ignited a loyal fan base that returns over and over again – even during the make-or-break climate of the 2008 crash.
“The crisis in 2008 left everyone reeling, but turns out our customers were somewhat recession proof,” Danielle says.
Nordstrom remained a profitable vendor of the Vikki Vi collection, but were prone to dropping, then restocking the brand due to cost-cutting decisions. When Covid hit and Nordstrom dropped the brand once more, Danielle switched to Facebook Advertising to directly target new customers.
“These days, Facebook Advertising is killing it for us – customers find us with targeted ads and our great reviews. Right now it’s our strongest marketing channel. As much as people have a love-hate relationship with Facebook, it really works for brands like Vikki Vi.”
As part of the brand’s online renaissance, Danielle upgraded her e-commerce platform to Shopify Plus, but knew her inventory planning needed overhauling. The vast product line consisted of similar items in different colours, sizes and styles, so had become harder to track. Products were also made of expensive fabric and manufactured in the United States, so overbuying would prove a costly blocker to cash flow.
At that time, the brand was powered by legacy ERP Netsuite, which Danielle felt had led Vikki Vi to an operational dead end.
“I had used Netsuite for many years, but when Shopify came along Netsuite didn’t work well with it, and I couldn’t afford to run both systems.
“It also didn’t have a forecasting tool, so I was just guessing. I was always out of stock or overbought because I had no idea.
“So this kept me stuck in one place, unable to move forward with the business.”
On a mission to move the business forward, Danielle started a search for software that would provide intelligent inventory planning and demand forecasting – and discovered Inventory Planner.
A SLICK, SOPHISTICATED MACHINE
“It’s been three years since we implemented Inventory Planner, and I am constantly telling my friends in business to get on board,” Danielle says.
Since syncing Vikki Vi with the leading inventory planning software, Danielle’s team receives in-depth inventory insights across over 200 metrics, so they can accurately replenish their extensive collection of plus-size garments right down to colour, style, size and other variants, and create an optimized inventory with maximum selling potential.
“The replenishment system, I don’t think we could do without at this point,” says Danielle. “But with all features, Inventory Planner is very easy to use. I use it to write purchase orders, receive merchandise, update Shopify – and it all happens immediately. The reports are robust, the KPIs I use a lot, I can look at gross margins – it’s just such an important part of our business.”
A huge game-changer for Vikki Vi has been Inventory Planner’s data-driven demand forecasting function, which uses historical sales information to predict upcoming demand while considering factors such as market shifts, seasonality, product type and location.
“Basically it’s helped me be in stock but not overbought,” says Danielle. “With the black classics I have three years of sales history, so the forecasts are incredibly accurate.
“It’s all about the history – once you have six to eight months of data on a product you can trust Inventory Planner implicitly to predict demand. The numbers are always right.
“Going on all that past history is a lot more accurate than what we had before: me, sitting down with my excel sheets trying to figure out how much to buy.”
Over 8 in 10 small businesses fail due to cash flow problems, for which inadequate inventory planning has a severe impact. With the intelligent tools to know exactly what, when and how much stock to buy, Vikki Vi’s cash flow is protected and boosted – as Danielle is able to confidently repurchase the right amount of stock in the knowledge that her profit margins will soar.
The danger of keeping too much stock has become clearer in recent months. In early June, Target saw its shares tumble after it was forced to slash prices to clear out unsold inventory. Last quarter, Walmart’s inventory levels were up 33% – something the company is trying to rectify, according to its most recent earnings report. In these uncertain times for retailers, Danielle is grateful for the added security Inventory Planner provides.
“It’s frightening as a retailer to overbuy – these days you could go out of business. Cash flow is everything. If dollars are caught up in inventory that you’re not able to sell, you can either go out and find more money somehow – or you’re in a situation where you have to discount to survive. But the more you discount, the more customers expect discounts. They aren’t going to buy at full price when you’ve previously given them 40% off. “
“I’ve carefully tried to balance that but it meant I was selling at full price, unable to scale. Inventory Planner has allowed me to bridge those two aspects together so now I’m able to grow the business.”
GROWING WITH CONFIDENCE
A far cry from the singly-managed, garage-based e-commerce gig Danielle started in the early aughts, Vikki Vi is now a scalable, multichannel business built on a tightly curated tech stack: Shopify Plus, Klaviyo for personalized email campaigns, shipping provider Shipstation, Searchenise for easier product navigation, Facebook Advertising, Quickbooks Online, and Inventory Planner.
With full inventory visibility, intuitive reporting and the means to make smart repurchasing decisions, and with repeat and new customers continually supporting the brand, Danielle is ready to charge ahead with growth.
“To scale online you have to sell more of the same thing to more people, and go deeper and deeper into your inventory levels – and that’s risky,” she says.
“I was hesitant buying new stock before, but now I know when I have enough, and that knowledge is extremely valuable. Having Inventory Planner behind us means that for the first time in my 20 year history, I have the confidence to scale. I’ve never felt more ready to do that.”
Inventory Planner provides reliable sales forecasts and in-depth inventory insights so you can make smarter decisions that boost your bottom line. To try it for yourself, book a 14 day free trial.
Los Angeles-based apparel brandwww.vikkivi.com
Apparel business has been in operation for more than two decades
High return customer loyalty rate