PrettyLittleThing keen to make its flamboyant fashion an international hit
When Umar and Adam Kamani launched PrettyLittleThing in 2012, the label only featured accessories. Eight years later, PrettyLittleThing (PLT) has established itself as an iconic, affordable online ready-to-wear label in the UK and beyond. Its products and ethos are closely linked with social media, and PLT is keen on short-cycle collections, as well as having ambitious plans to conquer the world.
PLT is targeted to young women aged 16 to 24, and has a catalogue of 20,000 items, from apparel to footwear and accessories. The products are directly inspired by catwalk shows, and by the wardrobes of international celebrities and influencers. The latter have become the label’s main brand ambassadors, with no fewer than 8,000 collaborations featured in 2019, generating 9.5 billion social media hits. PLT’s fashion is colourful and flamboyant, and the label’s chief concern is to make the products extremely affordable for its customers.
“We want to be these women's best friends,” PLT’s co-founder and CEO Umar Kamani told FashionNetwork.com, as he visited Paris to open a showroom during the fashion week. The venue, on central Boulevard Haussmann, is steeped in pink décor, pride of place going to a pink winged unicorn in actual size and a golden Eiffel Tower replica. “The world is beset by so many problems and, in the midst of it all, we are trying to create a fairy tale for women, to give them comfort and self-belief, and to make them feel empowered through fashion,” said Kamani.
Like Nasty Gal, PLT was spawned by Boohoo, the British fashion e-tailer founded by Mahmud Kamani, father of Umar and Aman, and by Carol Kane. “You can’t get more fast-fashion than Boohoo,” said Kane to FashionNetwork.com when the e-tailer opened its Parisian offices in 2018 (read the interview here).
“[PLT’s] business model is very similar,” said Umar Kamani. This is why PLT drops nearly 250 new items every week. A frenzied pace, proof of the label’s ability to react to instant trends by means of quick-off-the-mark, localised production. “We place orders for sizeable volumes right from the start, but we never generate a huge inventory.
"And if the items are successful with our customers, we produce more of the same. Otherwise, we move on to something else. About 40% of our total output is made in the UK, and another 40% comes from China. The rest comes from Turkey, Pakistan, India and other countries,” he added.
PLT's model straddles several of the apparel market’s current trends: from the increase in the number of orders placed over a short period of time, something affecting virtually all the apparel market’s segments, putting creative teams and purchasing departments under significant stress, to the labels’ strategy of shrinking order size in order to reduce the risk of having huge volumes of unsold inventory. As to whether a PLT-type model is likely to be adopted by an increasing number of players, like French mail-order company 3 Suisses did recently, Kamani is hedging his bets: “All I can say is that this model works well for us.”
Sustainable development is also part of the equation. In April 2019, PLT introduced a line called Recycled, whose products are made from fabric offcuts and recycled plastic bottles, though it meant sacrificing the label’s affordable price positioning. “As a label, we want to become more sustainable, do the right thing and contribute to a safer future for the planet. This means that we must turn our attention to a number of issues and aspects. But I think this is what everyone wants and expects from a label nowadays, ours included, especially the younger generations,” Kamani said.
“We’re targeting the whole planet”
In the 2018-19 financial year, sales for PLT grew by a staggering 107%, reaching €430 million (GBP374.4 million). Gross margin in the period was 56.6%, and the year was also marked by the deployment of a new chatbot, and new payment and returns functionalities. Above all, last year PLT deployed its eighth local website, the first non-Anglophone one, as a French version was added to the existing US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Irish and European versions of its international site. In parallel, to bolster PLT’s development effort, the group relocated its huge warehouse in Sheffield, UK, extending over 57,000 m2 and staffed by about 1,200 people, the linchpin of the label’s international expansion plans. Where is PLT heading to?
“We’re targeting the whole planet,” said Kamani, all smiles. “We now have a showroom in Manchester and one in London. We have also opened two showrooms in the USA, in Los Angeles and New York, and we have a presence in Dubai and Saudi Arabia. All the markets are promising. Wherever we go, it’s especially interesting to listen to what the market has to say. We don’t tweak the product range locally, it’s the label as a whole that adapts, in order to fit in with local culture. For example, when we go to the USA, we adopt the same outlook of our local customers, in order to have a product range and an advertising style consistent with their values."
Globally, the average purchasing basket value for the e-commerce sector as a whole is declining, compensated by a greater purchasing frequency. This doesn’t apply to PLT, which is expanding at pace, with some 5 million active customers, a 70% increase on an annual basis. PLT’s average online purchasing basket is GBP 40.41, up 12% over the last financial year, and order frequency too is growing, up by 11.7% to an average of 2.84 orders, higher than the frequency observed at Boohoo and even Nasty Gal.
“Just five years ago, people were still extremely sceptical about buying fashion online, but this didn’t prevent the market from expanding rapidly,” said Kamani, adding that “in the last few years, people have become more and more confident, aware of the new opportunities that exist. Our sales are growing year after year, and I think this will continue to be the case in the future, if we’ll be able to keep adapting to customer requirements.”
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