Since their beginnings in 1995, Alternative is known for everyday wardrobe of casual, dependable basics. As today’s retail conditions are evolving, the brand has launched their Basics Bar, a concept that should help revitalizing their in-store retail experience not only for the brand’s own customers, but for their retail partners as well. Here, Alternative CEO, Evan Toporek explains how the brand came up with the concept, and what that means for the future of retail.
What makes your basics different from any brands out there?
We develop proprietary fabrics for softness and durability, incorporating organic and recycled materials whenever possible. Currently, more than 80% of our garments are made using sustainable materials and processes, including low-impact dyes, washes with reclaimed water, certified organic cotton and recycled polyester.
Innovating from ‘thread to finish’ enables us to design the best in everyday basics, while also providing a unique look and feel that is as relevant today as it will be tomorrow. We are also making it easier than ever before to merchandise and shop these wardrobe essentials with the rollout of Alternative Basics Bar™ nationwide.
What are the strongest markets right now for your brand?
We are seeing strong growth with innovative retailers, both online and offline, like specialty stores and subscription-based businesses who are offering unique, personalized experiences. So it is not surprising that in this past year, we have had an overwhelming response to exclusive services we provide, like our Basics Bar™ or custom program; which allows our partners to personalize and tailor our offerings based on their customers’ needs. With Basics Bar™ accounts growing 70% YOY, it further shows that a fresh approach can greatly impact a retailer’s growth opportunity.
And what are your plans in terms of expansion?
Instead of creating new fashion silhouettes each season, the design team will focus on updates to our basics silhouettes by adding additional color variations and prints in best selling core products, resulting in an increased Basics Bar™ offering. This will provide our partners with consistently fresh and seasonally relevant inventory year-round.
How many doors do you serve currently?
We currently serve 1,500 U.S. wholesale accounts, including boutiques, online and specialty retailers. For Basics Bar™ alone, we have had 54 partners in 2017 to date with another 90 in the pipeline. Additionally, we’ve had 22% growth in all Basics Bar™ quantity sold this year compared to last year.
And how important is your own retailing compared to your wholesale business?
Touching the consumer directly with an authentic Alternative brand experience is very important to us. Our own retail stores allow us to get to know our customers better, try new things and vet out ideas before rolling out to our other channels. We take these learnings and proven concepts and apply it to our wholesale initiatives. We also extend invitations to buyers to visit our stores so that they can get to see a full visual presentation of Alternative. We work alongside these buyers to optimize merchandise and messaging opportunities and are able to use “real-world" examples from our own retail spaces.
Currently a lot of retailers close down in the US. How to face the fashion crisis?
The retail store experience is changing. In order to survive, retailers need to provide a competitive edge by giving their customer a reason to come into the store. As fast-fashion continues to wane and today’s shopper wants more long-lasting non-disposable basics, the Alternative Basics Bar™ becomes an ideal solution to help retailers evolve during this ever shifting apparel market. By creating shopping destinations through solid retail partnerships, we are working to ensure the customers always have the product they want, when they want it. With our always in stock, same-day shipping program, combined with high-impact signage, merchandise planning and operational support, we can provide retailers with the tools they need.
Why do you think Basics are the answers on the crisis? Isn't it much more difficult to attract consumers for Basics?
Trends come and go but people always need timeless wardrobe staples. Our Basics customers are repeat customers that have their go-to tee or hoodie that's always at the "top of the stack" and they own in every color. The Basics Bar™ provides a reason for return purchases when it’s time to update color/silhouettes.