Today the Spiegel, the most reputable german weekly magazine and one of the most read online portals published an article about our business and how it shapes the world of online retail.
Here is the article in case you haven read it yet: http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/start-up-lesara-wie-der-kleider-shop-die-branche-veraendert-a-1059590.html
Overall the story captures quite well the dramatic changes happening in retail - from huge inventory piles, 12-month-production planning and lots of middle men & mark-ups to data-driven merchandise selection, quick turnaround times and great value for money for latest trends for customers.
However, the whole interview went only for 30 minutes- hence it is normal that not everything has been reflected 100% accurately in the story.
That's why I wanted to share in full detail what actually is correct & right in the article and what is not.
- Yes, we do a very data-driven merchandise selection. No subjective selection but based on what people want. This allows us to focus on bestsellers and not offer the products that cannot be sold, avoiding expensive write-offs and waste.
- Yes, we are working directly together with factories - which is part of the reason why we can be so flexible and deliver great prices and great quality
- Yes, by being as fast as 2 weeks between selection and go-live of the product we are not only cheaper and better quality then competition, but also provide them faster & earlier than everyone else.
- Yes, value-for-money and fast-fashion have been the biggest & most successful retail segment over the past decades - and we believe that this segment is ready to be innovated in the digital world
Outdoor photo shoots of Lesara in China
What's not right:
- The article makes the argument that the majority of products sourced in Asia are produced in factories that are either have "inhuman work conditions" or "intoxicate the environment". This statement is a.) very disrespectful to a lot of countries, governments & people and b.) so wrong that I don't know where to start - and hence just want to focus on some of the most obvious & biggest points:
- For everyone who has been involved into working with factories it is clear that this is a huge generalization. Practically over 90% of products in the consumer industry are produced in Asia, no matter if value-merchandise or high-end-luxury. And there are good & bad factories in all of those factories, just as there are good places to work in in Europe as well as bad places.
- While there are some countries with high labour and social standards, such as China, there are also others where labor conditions are, on a general level, at another standard. This includes places like Bangladesh, Indoensia or Cambodia. That's also one of the reasons we only source from factories in China as the government but also we as a company have better chances to control and check on all partners we work together with.
- Unlike many other retailers we are very open about the factories we work together with. We even had a TV team (here is the link to the Documentary) - twice.
- As we have a 50+ team over in our offices in China we can also do make sure that the factories we partner with are run by great entrepreneurs that we like to work together with (and needless to say, that not only comply with national & international rules but actually go above and beyond to attract the best talent in the country).
Visiting the Showroom of one of our factories
As you see by this post, it is quite important to us that we engage with partners that share the same values & believes as we do. And also that we are quite transparent about who we work with & how.
It is important to say that the critique is not targeted at us but a general comment the article makes - I just want to point out to the people who did not have the chance to travel to Asia and visit the buzzling cities and factories that not everything can be generalized and standardized.
-> The most expensive labels that you know produce in the same places as the Primarks & Kiks of this world
-> Factories that are better run and treat their teams way better in contrast to global chains that don't respect their European employees (See the controversies around the workers at the Burger Kings & Lidls in Germany).
-> That getting a product for a really good prices means in our case also that it is better quality than something double the price.
As always in life and business, the answer is more complicated than a simple generalization and sometimes takes more time & effort to fully understand.
At the end of the day it's our job to inform the consumers - and we are super happy to add way more transparency and share the stories, successes & dreams of the partners that we work together with.
By being more efficient and smarter we are confident that we can offer customers better prices, better quality and great trends for amazing fashion & lifestyle.
We believe that we can shape the world of online retail and give people what they want while also reducing waste and high prices caused by middle men.
And we believe that we will create something that makes the lives of many people better at the end of the day.
Part of the Lesara Team in China