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Interview with Joor CEO, Kristin Savilia

By Kristopher Fraser

Dec 3, 2021

People |Interview

Image: Fabric PR

Despite the surge in direct to consumer, wholesale is still a key element to the fashion business. That’s where companies like Joor come in. Joor is a global wholesale platform facilitating over 57 billion dollars in wholesale transactions. More than 13,000 brands and over 365,000 curated fashion retailers across 150 countries connect on the platform daily. Joor has exclusive partnerships with over 30 of the world’s leading retailers including Neiman Marcus, Harrod’s and Shopbop along with leading conglomerate companies including LVMH, Kering, Richemont, and Capri Holdings.

The company has seen tremendous success under its current CEO Kristin Savilia, a retail and e-commerce industry professional with a plethora of experience under her belt in building online platforms and supporting marketplace transactions. Savilia was previously president of the Local Marketplace at XO Group Inc. and has worked in the buying departments of Macy’s and Linens N’ Things. Now, she’s proving that wholesale is more powerful than ever.

A lot of brands are going direct-to-consumer. What would you say to convince someone to do wholesale?

Why would you limit your channel, especially today? Some may suggest that direct-to-consumer brands have bypassed wholesale, but that’s opposite to what is actually happening. As a brand, you need to be pushing both direct-to-consumer and wholesale. It is important to get your brand distributed to as many places as possible where there is traffic.

Many of your brands are exclusive partners to Joor. How do you convince them to partner with you exclusively?

We are very fortunate to have the size and scale that comes with 57 billion dollars of GMV (Gross Merchandise Value). This makes Joor the industry leader and a valued partner. In exchange for connecting retailers with the brands on JOOR, we ask for exclusivity, so it remains special. We select these partners, and we curate who we bring into the mix. It is an exchange we feel is fair because we both help by placing our partners in our fashion ecosystem while guaranteeing an audience in return. We want to make sure our marketplace stays engaging, intuitive, and easy to use.

How do you think technology helped the fashion industry evolve during the height of the COVID-19 era when brick-and-mortar stores were on lockdown?

Technology saved the fashion industry during this challenging time. Imagine what would have happened 30 years ago when there was no internet. Had there been a similar pandemic, there would have been no way to do business. Our platform enabled wholesale business continuity right through the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, Joor was predominantly a mobile-first company with brands and buyers using our iPad app to conduct business, whether at showroom appointments or trade shows, especially during international fashion weeks.

For several years, Joor offered a virtual showroom solution for desktop that almost no one used. No matter how much we tried to convince them, they were focused on using our mobile experience to support in-person selling. As soon as the pandemic hit, we were inundated with phone calls asking about the virtual showroom features available via desktop. We were lucky we were prepared.

People are unlikely to go back to the old ways of doing business and that’s a good thing. With Joor and our virtual showroom, it is possible for brands to produce fewer physical samples and start producing fully rendered images and digital line sheets. For smaller businesses which perhaps don’t have the funds to create multiple sample sets and constantly travel, this is incredibly beneficial.

What does Joor look for when selecting a brand or company to partner with?

We are looking for companies who see the value in digital transformation and want to replace paper line sheets. We want to encourage people to work collaboratively digitally and in real-time while placing final orders. By listening to the global fashion sector, we were able to introduce a range of tools ahead of the pandemic which helped our customers successfully maintain sales without physical showrooms.

As a former buyer at Macy’s, I have the perspective of knowing how companies need a blank canvas to begin pulling the items they are interested in buying. We have a new program called ‘The Edit’, where you can create style-boards during the sales process which enables buyers to be more focused, visually build and curate assortments, and speed up the buying process.

What do you think needs to be the next frontier for e-commerce?

The fashion industry has a lot of things to think about, like sustainability. Brands also need to have better ways of tagging their data to improve the searchability of their product across collections. For example, if someone is looking for ripped white denim jeans with abrasions on the left knee, they would like to receive highly relevant results rather than having every ripped denim style pulled up on-screen.

Proving authenticity is also very important. Luxury brands are quite interested in NFTs right now, as we need functionality which enables brands to prove product authenticity.

What would you say is the secret sauce to building an online platform?

Always listen to your consumer, but never build exactly what they ask for. The analogy I like to give is the Henry Ford one on mechanics. People told him they wanted a faster horse; he created the car. Joor follows that philosophy. We listen to our clients’ challenges and work to create innovative solutions. No one told us to develop The Edit for mood boards, but we did it to deliver a better solution to the industry. Successful companies need to learn from their audience and innovate constantly, keeping one step ahead of their market requirements.

Over 150 countries connect on Joor. What do you think is happening with the fashion industry internationally causing this shift?

The democratization of digital has been huge, along with the ability for everyone to show on Joor. We have partnered with a number of government bodies – from countries including Spain, Turkey and Japan – representing comparatively smaller fashion markets, to help provide global visibility to their brands. These brands have never had access to Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman before. Our platform is able to put these brands next to leading Italian and French brands, which the same buyers are looking for, causing a tremendous shift in the industry. These brands can finally be shopped without borders.

How is Joor beneficial to small, independent brands and retailers?

We work with over 13,000 brands. We are a champion for small business and have more GMV in small businesses combined than we do with major retailers. There is strength in numbers for Joor. Sometimes a major department store might look at a small brand and say they are individually too small to be carried in our store, but we can connect that brand with our extensive network of smaller retailers around the world who are looking to source new and unique products.

What do you think is the biggest way fashion has changed since the pandemic?

The way fashion operates has changed. Brands now have a better understanding of the digital landscape. Supply chain demands have shifted and so have the buying cycles. Buyers are starting to buy products and make them available to their customer closer to when they are seasonally relevant in an effort to reduce markdowns.

How were wholesale partnerships impacted by the pandemic?

Initially, it was a shock to the system. Only e-commerce was functioning during that time and it was seeing increased demand. What we witnessed on Joor was that brands who were receiving cancelled orders from brick-and-mortar stores during the pandemic were quickly able to leverage our platform to shift those products and reallocate inventory to where it needed to be on e-commerce websites.

What would you say customers want from a shopping experience now?

On the consumer side, they are expecting personalization. They want a clean website. Shopping needs to be fast. On the B2B side, people want to move away from Excel spreadsheets and paper line sheets. They recognize the added efficiency and intelligence afforded by going digital. And, they don’t want to travel if they don’t have to.

What do you think is next for the future of fashion?

You will see an even greater focus on sustainability. The majority of our brands now have sustainability goals. Joor is poised to play a crucial role for many of these retail players in meeting those goals. We can tell retailers which collections are sustainable further upstream in their buying process and provide information regarding their sustainability credentials. We provide the opportunity for retailers to be accurate when it comes to delivering on sustainability commitments.

Diversity will continue to be an important issue in fashion. Joor recently launched a program to help highlight and introduce emerging black designers to the world’s finest retailers. AI is also going to play a more important role in helping retailers extract deeper insights into how customers are buying.

Kristin Savilia