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With an impressive track record in e-commerce roles at Macy’s, eBay and Walmart, Jill Ramsey became CEO of AKA Brands in 2020. Founded in 2018, AKA Brands is a global platform that helps support and scale businesses. brands while improving their profitability thanks to an asset-light operating model. AKA Brands currently has five distinct portfolio brands: Princess Polly, Culture Kings, Petal and Pup, Mnml and Rebdolls.
“We invest in direct-to-consumer digital native fashion brands and accelerate their growth through synergies leveraged as a group,” Ramsey said in the latest episode of the Glossy Podcast. The company went public in September 2021, raising $110 million, which “was a great opportunity to share our story with the world,” she said.
“There is a generation of young brands born on social media who are good at [producing] front-end content. They know how to create inspiring content that resonates with their end customer and spot the right fashion to connect with their audience. Alone, these young brands can struggle to scale, and that’s where AKA comes in. We support them in scaling and networking with other brands,” said Ramsey.
Glossy spoke to Ramsey about AKA Brands’ unique business model, including its strategic acquisitions and digital-focused strategies, as well as the challenges and changes the company has experienced throughout the pandemic.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
“On the supply side, we have a diverse set of suppliers that we source from multiple countries. A common point [with our competitors] is that we source from suppliers with fast design and production processes. We can deliver our fashion to our customers within 30-45 days, and we release a steady stream of new fashions. We test and learn to see what the customer likes and dislikes. We don’t buy through a traditional buying cycle [where you] buy nine months and take big stock bets three quarters ahead. We make a lot more real-time purchases, allowing you to be more efficient with your inventory because you know exactly what the customer likes, and you only restock and deep-buy styles your customer likes. love. Communicate trends to customers faster. You also don’t have to take as many markdowns, so it’s much more advantageous from a profitability standpoint. There is also [a lesser] environmental impact and a lighter carbon footprint, as you are not producing huge quantities of inventory that the customer may not even want. »
Build authentic relationships
“We focus on micro-influencers and have grown our brand by building a large network of relationships with smaller influencers that appeal to the end customer. The advantage of a large network of micro-influencers over fewer mega-influencers and celebrities is that the end customer perceives micro-influencers as more authentic. They are also much more affordable. We have a large, growing and vibrant network of these influencers. We have over 17,000 partnerships and we do 1,000 collaborations a week. We can track exactly how many customers we get from our influencers. We can constantly optimize this network by testing new ones and removing unproductive ones from the program. Today, everyone is an influencer. It’s gotten smaller and smaller, so we’re even looking at students. We launched an influencer program in the fall with students and got 20,000 signups immediately. The future is tiny [follower counts] when it comes to influencers.
A growing portfolio
“A big part of our model is constantly looking for new brands with great potential to add to the group. We travel the world to find the best of the best, and we have an in-house M&A team that is in constant conversation with potential brands. Now that we have more traction and visibility, we are becoming more inbound [interest] and brands that contact us and want to be part of the group. Our strategy is to add 1-2 brands per year. We look for smaller brands that could be different or complementary to our group, such as an athletics or performance sports brand, an overtly sustainable or mission-driven brand, or a brand that could diversify us into a new market like Europe. We have great brands in the pipeline.