For more than 21 years, Joe Browns has continued to keep things fresh with a new website, new stores, and new technology, around the world. We chat with the UK brand Founder to discuss staying fresh in a crowded market.
One of the biggest questions for any retailer is how to stay current and keep customers loyal – and this is especially true of brands that were founded in the early days of digital commerce.
How does a business stay relevant in a market where technology and customer engagement are constantly changing?
Look no further than Joe Browns, a multichannel brand that sells men and women’s clothing, footwear, and accessories. Though the business is based in the UK, its e-commerce model allows it to take a global approach to sales. “A bestselling garment is essentially a bestselling garment across the world,” says Simon Brown, Managing Director and Founder, noting that there isn’t a great deal of difference between the Australian and UK markets.
But what does a bestselling garment look like at Joe Browns? “Fast fashion isn’t our style,” says Brown. “Essentially each garment we make is produced with care, consideration and the intention to last a lifetime. We want our customers to feel just as remarkable each time they wear a Joe Browns garment as they did the very first time they put it on.”
This desire to give customers a remarkable experience traces back to the origins of the brand in 1998 – a memorable experience Brown had with a group of friends over beers in Morfa Nefyn, North Wales. “Fresh out of the sea, salt in their hair, laughing, joking and totally carefree, they were having an absolute blast,” he says. “That was the essence, right there, of Joe Browns – fun, spontaneous and free! I decided then and there that this remarkable spirit would make the foundations of a great brand and here we are, 21 years later.”
When a multichannel retailer predates the 2000s, it’s fair to assume the business started out in physical stores before expanding online. Joe Browns, however, went through a different transformation. Originally a mail-order company that launched in 1998, it began developing a bricks-and-mortar presence only after establishing a strong online business, reaching the milestone of one million customers.
The first store opened in 2017 and was successful enough to prompt a second in July 2019, and more are on the way. “Exploring retail is great fun,” says Brown. “It’s wonderful seeing the essence of Joe Browns translated into bricks and mortar. Each store really brings to life the colourful, three-dimensional brand we are and allows more people to access our remarkable garments. We have more stores in the pipeline which is hugely exciting.”
Founder and MD, Simon Brown
Despite its bricks-and-mortar expansion, Joe Browns won’t leave behind its other channels any time soon. “Retail has changed beyond all recognition,” says Brown. “The internet barely existed when we were starting out and now it accounts for 80 percent of our sales. As retail continues to evolve, we have learnt how important a multichannel offering is. That’s why you can now purchase Joe Browns online, in-store, over the phone, via a catalogue and on shopping channels.”
The retailer’s online offerings include an active social media presence: its Instagram page has over 21,000 followers, its Twitter over 17,000, and Facebook over 200,000. It also launched a new website in 2019, in response to one of its greatest challenges – a platform that couldn’t keep up with high demand.
“Honestly, our website has really struggled with the amount of traffic it’s received at peak times of the year,” admits Brown. “Sometimes crashing altogether which no retailer wants! Last Christmas we had 3,500 customers queueing to get to our website. It was clear we needed to increase our capacity. Customer experience is paramount to us, so we had no choice but to tackle this head-on with a brand-new website that offers customers a much smoother journey.”
Given the company’s plans to expand further in 2020, having a reliable website is key. Brown hints at some of these developments: “2020 will see a great new homeware collection. We’re also doubling the capacity of our warehouse and investing in new technology.”
After 21 years, it’s clear that Joe Browns is still going strong in an ever-evolving market. As the brand continues to adapt its online offerings and build its offline presence, it looks set to continue growing in the new decade.
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