M.Gemi is in constant motion: releasing new heels every week, and rotating old ones out.
We spoke to President Cheryl Kaplan on the back of the DTC shoe brand’s two year anniversary. (849 words)
BOSTON — Given the well-worn statistic that 95% of all startups fail within the first three years, a one year anniversary is a very big deal for a growing upstart.
By that logic, two years in business should be an even bigger cause for celebration. But at the HQ of Boston-based M.Gemi last month, there were no balloons, no party hats, no kazoos. Just business as usual — with little more than a quiet nod in recognition of hitting that two year mark.
Par for the course at M.Gemi. They may be known for their swanky product line — Italian-made luxury sneakers, dress shoes, and heels — but internally, the company is devoted to getting the basics right, without expectation of fanfare.
Lean Luxe spoke with co-founder and President Cheryl Kaplan on the phone about zeroing in on high customer repeat purchase rates, their smart approach to supply chain, and the small causes for celebration as they cross over into year three.
The condensed keynotes:
They’ve got the ‘see now buy now’ model baked right in.
The ‘see now buy now’ approach is all the rage with the runway fashion set. But what enables it to happen is supply chain. And M.Gemi has one heck of an agile supply chain — one that allows them to spring to action based on what the market’s demanding.
Two impressive insights here:
- They release a set of new styles every Monday, for a total of 52 new releases per year.
- They can take a shoe from concept to production in 30 to 60 days. In the traditional, old-world industry of luxury shoemaking, which is used to working slowly, and taking months to produce shoes, M.Gemi is in constant motion: releasing new models every week, and rotating old ones out.
“We’re constantly in development,” Kaplan told us. Goes without saying. Still how are they able to keep this pace up?
Florence, factories, and flavors of the week.
Kaplan told us that they also have an office outside of Florence, Italy, which puts them in close contact with their suppliers and manufacturers. This is a clear advantage for them. Other brands in the DTC category, though they may have great relationships with their manufacturers, don’t have it like this.
The manufacturing relationship is good for everyone, said Kaplan: “As much as we were excited to bring their products to the US, they were excited because this really fills a need for them. A lot of the big brands have their seasonal development, and then the factories are quiet. So we’re filling a need for them. It’s not simply a vendor relationship, they’re partners of ours.”
This is a key point. Small family-operated Italian factories are notoriously difficult to get into contact with, let alone convince. Many brands that we talk to sound eager to work with these factories as a one-sided thing. M.Gemi’s approach to helping these factories run when they wouldn’t otherwise, is key — and likely wouldn’t be possible were it not for their regular weekly releases.
Using the pop-up as a market testing tool for permanent locations.
The pop-up has gone from being a gimmick to becoming standard protocol for many MLCs now. As such, M.Gemi’s current extended Soho pop-up is more of a formality for a permanent location in the city soon. It’s all but a foregone conclusion at this point, though Cheryl had nothing concrete to share right now. There were two points that did stand out, however.
- One surprising stat: “Our New York store buyers live all around the country. We’ve been shipping about 30% of in-store purchases to cities outside of the Tri-State area. What that has shown us is, if we get into the right key cities, and hit those that live locally and those that are traveling, then we can really hit our target audience and we don’t have to be in every city.”
- Key cities being looked at: Again Kaplan revealed nothing specific in terms of when and precisely where on this, but think: up and down the I-95 corridor (Boston the homebase being critical), plus California.
Customers are coming back often.
The brand boasts a strong repeat purchase rate. “Our clients are typically buying four times a year, and at the price point that we’re at, that’s unheard of in the industry. It speaks volumes to what we’re doing and the opportunity ahead.”
What this says: the customer must be be very happy. “She’s clearly loving the experience,” said Kaplan. “I sit right next to our client services team so that I can hear true day-to-day contacts with the clients. Even if something goes wrong, [after we solve their problem] they become some of our best customers. The combination of seeing how they enjoy the experience, that it feels luxury, that the quality is what they expected, if not better — and that they’re getting it at a value, it results in our high repeat rate.”
And we had to ask — any new fundraises to look forward to?
“I think at this point, that is still confidential.” Noted. We’ll circle back on this one…