Charleen Hsieh's innate fashion sense is certainly part of the reason why FashionWholesaler.com is such an successful company. Along with their much-desired products, the other reason the company is growing so quickly is because they actively listen to their customers. Hsieh, Director of Operations, began with the company as Office Manager in its inception in 1999, setting up the financial controls.
Now, in addition to operations, she does much of the buying and has helped FashionWholesaler.com grow into a company with over 2,500 products across seven categories, and nearly 100 subcategories. They began with hair accessories. "The movie, Titanic, made hair accessories very popular, especially the butterfly clip," said Hsieh. "But in 2001, that market became very slow. We met a handbag importer, and she wanted us to help her, so we began selling handbags."
The handbags quickly brought a solid client base, and customers began asking if FashionWholesaler.com would consider adding jewelry, so they did. "We have gone from very few items to being almost a one stop shop for our customers, due to their requests for other small accessories," said Hsieh. Belts made their entrance when Britney Spears showed up in concert wearing one with rhinestones. "When we first started carrying belts, they were gone before we put them on the shelf," said Hsieh. "When a celebrity wears it, people want it."
Customers continue to ask for additional categories and items, in order to shop with one trusted vendor. Said Hsieh, "They are impressed with our collections. The hats and scarves are selling very well, especially with the Red Hat ladies. We are adding little by little, and plan to add sandals and tees next summer." Hsieh believes in bringing in what customers need, and makes sure this happens by having the customer service department call between 500 and 1,000 customers every month. "We make follow up calls to get their feedback and learn what they need." As a buyer, Hsieh feels this is especially important. "When you do the purchasing, you may add your personal preference into it, so we get customer feedback to make sure that doesn't happen."
FashionWholesaler.com also makes sure its customers will be successful by assisting them with their order. Those who telephone usually ask for help, which the company is happy to provide, especially when many are not very familiar with the fashion trends. "We ask about their customer base and income level, their location, and other questions of that nature," said Hsieh. "That affects what we recommend."
The company's growth is reflected in the ever increasing size of their warehouse, which is currently 20,000 square feet. "When we started it was 1,500," said Hsieh. "A lot of people are surprised to find that although it is not a good year, we are moving to a larger warehouse!" According to Hsieh, "One of the great compliments we receive from customers is when they say, 'Wow! I received my merchandise in less than a week!' Because of our warehouse, we have faster delivery than other vendors. We keep things in stock." She notes that some companies only post the merchandise and submit their order to their vendor when they receive the customer's order.
The majority of their customers are boutiques, but there are also groups that buy wholesale, such as churches, which purchase religious items like bible bags. Another group of customers consists of the special order groups. "For instance, cosmetic companies with ten or 20 stores might special order 2,000 cosmetic bags for the holiday season with their products placed inside them," said Hsieh.
Although the majority of FashionWholesaler.com's items come through importers, for special orders, they will connect with a factory to give customers a price below wholesale. "If they have a target price, we will find a way to meet that. Sometimes the customers don't have importing experience, or experience communicating with the factory," said Hsieh. "Since we speak Chinese, we can handle that for them, because we know the culture and how to get the best prices."
It is difficult to believe the prices can get better than they already are, especially in relation to their quality, therefore it is no surprise to find that their philosophy is, "Low cost for high quality." Hsieh attributes this to why they have so many loyal clients. "We have customers who have been with us for ten years. Some customers began their business as a side business, and it is now their main focus. Their first order was $100 and now is $1,000. We are growing and they are growing, because we have been adding a lot of variety to suit what they need."
The most important factor for customers to know, said Hsieh, is that FashionWholesaler.com is on top of fashion trends and is able to provide current fashion merchandise and information to their customers. In fact, early next year they may be adding a fashion newsletter, separate from their bi-weekly email that lists new items. "Our information is ahead of the trends, because I need to predict what is going to be hot. When they see the merchandise online, that is the time to buy. Some of our customers do not see the trends as quickly as a major market does, so by the time they catch on, we are already out of stock."
There is no printed catalog because new or restock items come in at least every other day, but the "Just In" tab found on the catalog page from the drop down menu lists these items by category. The "What's New" tab, next to it, lists items by date. The catalog page lists the discounted selections for each category, which sometimes appear in the newsletter as well.
Hsieh said their customers like the website because it is easy to locate the items they want, and they like how the merchandise is categorized. In fact, "Customers give us consistent positive feedback on the website, and many even ask us to design a website for them."
She said customers also like the website because the policies are detailed up front. "Some of our competitors list policies just briefly, and it causes arguments afterward." The minimum order is $150, but markup varies considerably depending on the item and the market. "For handbags," said Hsieh, "it is normally about double. Jewelry varies more, but normally three or four times the wholesale price." Smaller accessories can have an even greater markup. She relates that one compact mirror they carried for $6 was very similar to one in Nordstrom's selling for $38.
"Many customers say they wish they had found us earlier," said Hsieh, "because we have so many items that work well for their store and market. We provide our customers with variety and we listen to them to find out what they need from us. My goal is to keep 90 to 95 percent of our customers happy, and I think our policies encourage that." Minimum order: $150
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