Without a doubt Asia has become the essential growth market for many high-end luxury brands, and while 2014 has seen a slight weakening of the Chinese economy, the Asian market is still an irresistible lure for luxury brands. However with many brands expanding globally and less domestically, Club 21 saw the writing on the wall for global expansion from the very beginnings of their origins.
While consumers may know the luxury brands that fall under Club 21, they may not know much about this luxury powerhouse which has spanned over four decades. Singaporean born businesswoman, Christina Ong, founded Club 21 in 1970. Seeing an opportunity to bring luxury brands into Singapore, the first Club 21 store was opened in 1972. In addition to retail, Club 21 is a formidable luxury player in wholesale distribution, vertical retailing and brand guidance. The group also boosts over 3,800 employees.
With brands such as CK Calvin Klein, Armani Exchange and many others under the Club 21 umbrella, it is showing no sign of slowing down, with the expansion of Club 21 Online recently offering some of their finest luxury brands to Australia. With over 250 brands across 400 stores around the world, this specialty luxury player is now focusing heavily through their membership-based program capturing customer loyalty through their online site.
Heading Club 21’s online drive is Linda Locke, Online General Manager for Club 21. Ms Locke is a former advertising executive with over 300 industry awards to her name. She gave me an insight into the world of Club 21 and what the future looks like.
What are the strategies behind Club 21’s online presence?
Our retail expertise makes Club 21 highly sought after as a retail partner. We deliver stylish luxury retail experiences. As a bricks-and-mortar retailer we manage over 250 brands including 3.1 Phillip Lim, Balenciaga, Issey Miyake, Carven, Christopher Kane, Calvin Klein platinum label, Comme des Garcons Shirt, Marni, McQ Alexander McQueen and Lanvin across nearly 400 stores in 10 countries. Our experience in vertical retailing, brand building and guardianship, as well as our intimate knowledge of local consumer markets, customer and brand relationships, made Club 21 Online a natural evolution in our multi-channel strategy. Online not only complements our existing brick and mortar boutiques thanks to our distribution rights, but it also carries its own range of sought-after labels.
In addition to our carefully curated collection of luxury fashion, Club 21 Online includes engaging fashion editorial, free shipping and returns, as well as leveraging our regional membership program which entitles members to benefits and lifestyle privileges such as member discounts, member points accumulation, instant points redemption and more. We define our unique online proposition as ‘Luxury that Rewards’.
Does Club 21 Online only ship to the countries you have distribution rights to?
Yes, Club 21 Online currently operates across eight countries – Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines and Australia, with the view to expand to more countries in the next 12 months.
What is Club 21 Online offering that sets it apart from the other luxury online players?
The Club 21 membership program is a unique selling point. The vision of the founder has always been to build a lifestyle company that attracted customers who shared the same belief in and desire for feeling good, looking good and living well. This is summed up in our corporate DNA values of Creativity, Passion and Style.
In 1992 the company had grown its community to such a size that a membership program was the natural next step to formally create a sense of belonging and make the concept of a ‘Club’ a reality. The company felt that such loyalty should and would be recognised and rewarded. The membership program also allows the company to engage with its customers on a more personal and privileged basis, and provide the members with one-of-a-kind experiences, opportunities and special treats. We also have the benefit of being able to ship to store in some of our markets with more to come, as well as offering alteration services. These are unique propositions that other online stores cannot and could not offer.
Club 21 has been around for more than 40 years. How important has trust been to developing new markets and introducing new brands, especially in Asia?
The brands we represent have their own DNA and so does Club 21, so the brands we take on become part of our Club 21 family. They have to harmonise with our existing brands in a complementary manner. Our buying and merchandising team work hard to ensure that our range of labels and products appeal to a wide spectrum of psychographical consumers – including existing customers and potential new customers – who are ecommerce-savvy and fashion-confident.
Additionally, Club 21’s positioning as Asia’s leading curator of fashion, coupled with our extensive experience in the retail space and knowledge of local consumer markets, has allowed the building of trust between us and the customer. As customers they can rest assured that we will only present them with brands that meet our high standards in terms of brand aesthetics, craftsmanship, materials and design authenticity.
What are the biggest sellers for Club 21?
Currently brands like Balenciaga, Bao Bao Issey Miyake, Sacai Luck and 3.1 Phillip Lim are the biggest sellers. In terms of best-selling product categories, accessories like bags and shoes do well but Ready-to-wear is fast catching up, especially newer brands like Clover Canyon, Twisty Parallel Universe, Wooyoungmi.
What’s next for Club 21?
We are continually looking for opportunities to evolve through collaborations with like minded fashion and lifestyle partners in order to keep our offering unique and interesting to our customers, as well as expanding to include more markets and services such as ship to store. We are also planning to redesign and refresh the website, and refine the user experience on mobile devices.
Where is Club 21 investing in mobile, online technologies and other media platforms?
Apart from our mobile app, which has been downloaded 150,000 times in Singapore and Thailand alone, we are investing in greater business analytics in order to better understand the buying behaviours and social footprints of our customers. We are also investing in growing our Instagram platform as that is where we interact with like-minded influencers and where we showcase our range of designers and their products.
What are the biggest trends coming up?
One of the biggest for women this Fall is the sixties revival (from A-line minis to box bags) which we highlighted in a recent editorial currently on our website. A look at the recent run of fashion weeks also indicates fashion’s love affair with denim and sneakers is still as strong as ever, as well as ‘mannish’ footwear.
To have a look at the Club 21 offering go to club21online.com