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In 1972 an young man, then 22, would join his father in their family owned small tailor shop. After graduating from Waseda University he tried his hand at selling kitchenware in a Jusco supermarket but that didn’t really worked out. So after one year in the kitchenware sales business he was back to the family shop.
It took him 13 years of hard work and one day, in 1985, he opened the first unisex clothing store in Hiroshima City. The brand our young man built would soon become a global multi-billion company and in 2014 – the fastest growing online retailer in the US.
The brand you will see towering at number one in the fastest growing online retailers in the United States is proof that the Internet is indeed a leveled play field. As many economists, investors and analysts showed – the Internet is clearing the way for a border-less economy.
InternetRetailer’s top retailers list clearly shows the fastest growing retailers are a special breed of companies. From foreign investors to Google, from mom-and-pop stores turned fast growing retailers – these companies show that we’re living extraordinary times for a ever-evolving breed of new retailers. Their growth and many others’ amount to a 16.9% growth in ecommerce sales in the US. That’s one big number but it gets even bigger when you have a look at the growth rate for the five fastest growing online retailers.
Google’s entertainment ecommerce business has been growing rapidly with the extended adoption of Android based mobile devices. In terms of android app sales is second only to the largest online retailer in the world, Amazon, but it seems the gap is closing fast.
The company is now one of the biggest digital goods retailer online, selling anything from music to movies, apps and games. It is also heavily pushing Android – powered mobile devices such as those manufactured by Samsung or HTC and the much praised Chromebooks.
Google Play, originally named Android Market, was launched on 22 October 2008, as an Android alternative to Apple’s App Store.
In July 2013 Google Play listed more than 1 million apps available and over 50 billion downloads since launch. The number is growing fast and it has already surpassed the App Store in terms of submitted applications and downloads. With gamers worldwide switching from PC and gaming consoles to hand-held devices, the app sales market becomes more and more attractive, thus the increased growth rate.
Here are some key take-away figures to get a glimpse into Google Play’s sales:
Alex and Ani was founded in 2004 by Carmen Rafaelian. The company designs, manufactures and sells its own line of bangles, earrings, necklaces and rings.
A factory originally built by Rafaelian’s father in 1966 was home for the first manufacturing operations. Now Alex and Ani has 40 brick and mortar stores and an online store that reported a 250% increase in YoY sales.
The one thing that sets the company apart from its competition is its focus on a virtuous company ethos. Alex and Ani, originally named after its founder’s two daughters, takes pride in designing and manufacturing long-lasting, beautifully designed, hand-made jewelry. The products are somehow filled with positive energy, using carefully designed symbols that “carry their own energy and are accompanied by thoughtfully crafted and meticulously researched meaning“. Buyers are of course empowered by the jewels, which “reflect the unique qualities of the individual“. All materials and manufacturing is “Made in America With Love”. And positive energy.
I don’t know about the esoteric power of its products but the company is definately ahead of its game when it comes to customer experience. Besides adopting a multichannel approach to product sales, Alex and Ani adopted a mobile checkout process in store. The company partnered with Mobiquity to create a mPOS (mobile Point of Sale) solution that lets store associates handle payments and answer customer questions independent of fixed POS. The hardware solution is part iPod and part mobile payments processor. Each Alex and Ani store now comes equipped with up to 25 such devices. As a result store associates (or Bangles Bartenders) can bond with customers and quickly answer their needs.
Although the company has had a successful increase in sales, possibly due to it small pricing and short-term sales policy, the customer service still needs work. The Better Business Bureau lists no less than 2590 closed complaints in the last 3 years, most (1335) in the last 12 months. Customers complained about product and service, as well as delivery issues. The company seems to be improving its customer service and is willing to resolve ongoing complaints.
What might be harder to solve, however, is the fact that both Overstock and Nordstrom, retail heavyweights, are suing Nomorerack for copyright infringement. The former claims Nomorerack is bidding on the “Overstock” keyword on Google Adwords and the later claims NoMoreRack infringes on it “The Rack” store brand name.
Be that as it may, the old saying “sales cure everything” may hold true, as NoMoreRack’s 250% increase in sales shows. But just in case – the company has a pool of cash to help it get through rough times, thanks to series A investment by asian G-Market ($12 million, 2012) and series B investment lead by Oak Investments ($40 million, 2013).
Although it may not be number one on the list, The RealReal is probably the most interesting business model on it. It is a mix between luxury sales, flash sales and consignment sales. The company was founded in 2011 by Julie Wainwright and is now the top online resale outlet for luxury goods. Flash sales cover a wide array of luxury products, ranging from clothing to jewelry to art and beyond.
Previously to being the founder of The RealReal, Julie Wainwright, 57, served as a CEO to high profile consumer dot com ventures such as Pets.com and Reel.com, as well as a board member for the San Francisco Art Institute, Baker and Taylor and more. She was named among the top 50 Most Influential Business women in the Bay Area.
As impressive as that sounds, it may be possible The RealReal is her greatest achievement yet. Companies such as Reel.com or Pets.com folded at times she held top management positions, most likely due to the dot com crash. She outlined the challenges and mistakes that lead to these failures in her book “ReBoot: My Five Life-Changing Mistakes and How I Have Moved On“.
Consignors sell their goods through TheRealReal and get up to 70% the end price. The company curates the product listing and authenticates all products with the help of professional gemologists, art experts, horology consultants and authentication experts.
Because all sales happen during a 72 hrs time-span customers can upgrade to a 24 hrs advance to sales, by purchasing a “First Look” subscription for 5$/month. Right now only 0.6% of all members have upgraded to the First Look subscription, but founder Julie Wainwright is optimistic about the future.
The company considers itself as holding the “top products from Ebay and the bottom of Sotheby’s and Christie’s”. Unlike Ebay, consignors earn 60% of the sale price and can work their way up to 70%, with repeated sales. The RealReal thus built a gamification system that encourages sellers to repeatedly use the platform.
Remember the young man we were talking at the beginning of this post? The one that opened a store in Hiroshima City in 1985 and went on to become the leader of one of the largest retail chains in the world? His name is Tadashi Yanai, the wealthiest man in Japan ($17.6 billion in 2014) and the founder of Uniqlo, now the fastest growing online retailer in the United States.
It stands as a sign of the times that a brand founded in Hiroshima went on to become the leader in a redefining area of retail, in the largest economy in the world, almost 30 years since its birth date.
In may 1985, Unique Clothing Warehouse was opened as a unisex casual wear store in Fukuro Machi, Hiroshima. It later on changed its name to Uniqlo, a contraction of “unique clothing” and became increasingly popular as it opened store after store in an effort to extend its retail reach.
Uniqlo, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Fast Retailing, is a contender to global casual wear behemoths GAP, H&M, Limited Brands (best known for Victoria’s Secret brand) and Zara (a brand owned by the Inditex Group). Its first urban store opened in the fashionable Harajuku district in november 1998. It was quickly followed by approximately 780 stores in Japan and later throughout the world.
The company entered the chinese market in 2002 and the US market in 2005. Since its debut in America, Uniqlo continuously opened stores and plans to open up to 200 locations by 2020, with a sales target of $10 billion. Right now the total store count is 18, way behind its presence in Japan (790 stores) and China (260 stores). Still not bad considering the fact that many american retailers are actually closing stores.
Uniqlo plans to become the biggest company in its market, by growing at a 20% rate until 2020, when it expects to report $61.2 billion in revenue. The company’s track record so far shows that is possible.