As the fallout of COVID-19 continues to challenge and restructure traditional business models, ecommerce may be the safest sector to be in during the pandemic. Verge Girl has gone from having a physical store in Brisbane, to selling its mix of vintage and local Australian brands entirely online, and that pivot has really paid off.
"COVID-19 has definitely had a negative impact on the future of bricks-and-mortar retail stores, as the forced closure will be hard to recover from for a lot of businesses," says Daniella Dionyssiou, Co-Founder of online retail brand Verge Girl.
"Bricks-and-mortar retail was on the decline anyway, however, the pandemic has created a boom in sales for ecommerce businesses."
Global ecommerce sales are expected to top US$4.2 trillion in 2020 and reach more than US$6.5 trillion by 2023, according to Shopify. The business also indicates that "more than 2.1 billion shoppers are expected to purchase goods and services online by 2021".
"Our goal was, and still is, to help young women feel confident and stylish without breaking the bank." – Natalia Suesskow and Daniella Dionyssiou
Trade will only further continue to shift online. Retailers that are unprepared or lacking an efficient and integrated business management system will likely struggle to compete.
Research also suggests that, in 2023, ecommerce retail purchases will rise from 14.1% to 22%. Further, it is predicted that gen Zers, born after 1998, will have US$44 billion in buying power. With around 95% of this generation owning a smartphone, they are twice as likely to shop on mobile devices than millennials.
Verge Girl, founded by sisters Natalia Suesskow and Daniella Dionyssiou in 2007, is now purely a direct-to-consumer online business. Their brand aims to provide style-driven affordability with pieces that won’t break the bank.
"There was very little on offer for young women who wanted new and stylish clothing, but who were also on a budget," Daniella explains.
"The market was really about higher-priced labels or super-cheap clothes – there was no middle ground. Filling this gap is what inspired us to start in the first place.
"Our goal was, and still is, to help young women feel confident and stylish without breaking the bank."
Since Verge Girl’s inception, the sisters have also given a portion of profits to charities including Sunrise Cambodia, Australian Red Cross, Mercy Ships, Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation and Mission Paws’ible.
Daniella adds that the fashion business hasn’t faced many challenges along the way. And with Verge Girl being entirely online, it wasn’t as harshly hit by the pandemic. "We always tell ourselves to be bold and not to sweat the small stuff," she says.
"In the early days, we were cautious about everything we did and spent," Daniella notes. "This helped us to set foundations for the profit margins we were able to make and stick to until this day, but it also slowed our growth in the beginning."
Natalia adds that the cost of air freight to get stock into their warehouse was one recent yet unexpected challenge.
"We have been paying five to six times the cost of shipping; however, we’ve had no choice as the demand for the stock is so great," she says.
"We purchased another warehouse and also leased the warehouse next door to our current space to cope with stock volumes and sales growth."
Experiencing growth with a 100% increase in turnover year on year, Verge Girl quickly expanded into the international market, with those orders now making up about 60% of the brand’s revenue.
"We have noticed that not only are people who have been working and studying from home shopping up a storm, but also that the excitement of a new delivery in the mail keeps the spirits up during this trying time," Natalia adds.
The clothing is worn by the likes of Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Kourtney Kardashian, which has only further aided the growth of the company.
"In the past 24 months, we have seen growth year on year," Daniella shares. "We are currently sitting at eight figures and targeting A$40 million turnover for FY2000–21.
As for the next five years, the business is currently considering a range of strategic initiatives designed to further grow the brand. These include increasing the spend on branding and advertising, and further investment in business infrastructure and systems.
"In doing so, we have a five-year goal of more than A$100 million in turnover," Daniella adds.